INDIANAPOLIS — Sunday's game against the Jacksonville Jaguars will be a day of celebration for the Indianapolis Colts, who will induct Hall of Fame general manager Bill Polian into the team's Ring of Honor.
But, thanks to one of the greatest finds of Polian's great tenure with the Colts, the afternoon will also feature a whole other level of celebration for the franchise.
The game will be the final in the great career of longtime pass rushing great Robert Mathis, who announced his retirement last week in a press conference at the Indiana Farm Bureau Football Center.
Mathis leaves behind a legacy not only as one of the greatest pass rushers in team — and NFL — history, but he perhaps made the most of his big plays better than any other defensive end/outside linebacker in league history.
He owns the Colts' franchise record with 122 regular-season sacks, but 40 of those sacks resulted in forced fumbles on the opposing quarterback, an NFL record.
Included in that résumé for the 2003 fifth-round pick out of Alabama A&M is a 2013 season in which Mathis notched a career-best 19.5 sacks, as well as continued team success throughout his career, which included a Super Bowl title in 2006.
It's obvious that it won't be long until Mathis joins Polian and the rest of the team's greats up in the Colts' Ring of Honor — and perhaps he'll one day join Polian and earn his gold jacket and bust in Canton, Ohio, at the Pro Football Hall of Fame (he should).
But for now, let's check out the top quotes from Mathis himself, as well as those who know him best, about his tremendous legacy in Indianapolis:
• "It is time to step aside. … The game has been good to me, I want to pay it forward, I want to leave it better than I found it and I want to help the younger guys. I want to walk away, I don't want to limp away. The rest of my body goes to my kids." — Colts outside linebacker Robert Mathis
• "I've been around this game for 42 years. I've been around locker rooms with Johnny Unitas on forward and that man right there (pointing to Mathis) is one of the best football players I have ever seen. … What he's meant to this franchise is something. I've always said, 'If we could have 11 Robert Mathis' on both sides of the ball we would never lose a game.'" — Colts owner Jim Irsay
• "All that he does inside this building and all that he does outside this building for the community, he is a warrior, they don't make them like that. I wish they all had his drive and his passion, his love for the game and his toughness and durability, coachability, tenacity, resolve and everything. He is a guy that nothing was given to him, he earned his way into this league and he has never taken it for granted, not one day. He never let any of the success or fame or money or this, that and the other ever get to him. He has been the same guy for 14 seasons." — Colts head coach Chuck Pagano
• "Basically, to me, to put it simply, he is a quiet man that just made a hell of a lot of noise when he stepped on to the football field. His approach was … blue collar, just get after it every day, and that's what you love about him. But he was someone, I think, from a lot of different levels, you knew you had to have him, because he was not only going to produce on the field — he had 19 1/2 sacks in '13, and all the great things that he did — but it was more than that; it was that intangible factor he had, even though he's not a vocal guy, which is unique in an of itself. He's just one of those people that, as he says, he walks the walk." — Colts general manager Ryan Grigson
• "In so many ways, he was the quintessential Colt. He gave you what he had. He worked day-in and day-out to be the best he could be. Robert was among the most respected players on our team when we were in our heyday and everybody and his brother was making the Pro Bowl. … If you walked into the scouting room today and said to those scouts, 'Here's what I want you to pick. Here's the ideal Colt,' you'd do far worse than put Robert Mathis' picture up there." — Former Colts general manager Bill Polian, via Fox59.com.
The 98 photos of Robert Mathis throughout his career with the Colts.
• "This is for my brother from another mother, Robert Mathis. You've had an amazing career, man. You've pushed me every single day in practice and in games. I would not be the player I am today if it wasn't for you. … Hey, don't worry about it, put your feet up, relax. No more chip blocks, double protections, seven-man protections, slide protections. Unless it's from (sons) Jason or Mason. You just take care of yourself. I'm going to see you on the golf course at some point." — Former Colts defensive end and Mathis' former teammate Dwight Freeney
• "One heck of a career — Hall of Fame career, in my opinion — and, really, for me, for the longest time, he's really been my favorite player to watch personally, just because his work ethic, his ability to make plays — big plays — and just his ability to never give up on a play." — Former Colts linebacker and Mathis' former teammate Gary Brackett
• "He means so much to the organization you just can't even pinpoint what he does. It's just his leadership, his presence. His presence just says a lot without him even saying anything. I'm just glad that I got the opportunity to put my pads on and strap this helmet up with him." — Colts safety Mike Adams
• "His story is great. A small school, undersized (player) – all of the boxes are sort of checked against him to be successful except for the intangibles. The hard work, the toughness and you certainly see that every day that you come to work with Rob. I know that a lot of the younger guys that maybe weren't drafted as high as they would have liked or are undrafted free agents or smaller schools look to him for help, education, mentoring and I know that he has done a great job of that since I've been a Colt here." — Colts quarterback Andrew Luck
• "When I was on the other team, we feared him and Dwight Freeney. I'm glad that I wasn't a quarterback. I would have never slept that night probably thinking about him coming around the corner and strip-sacking people and getting ball loose. Even before I became his teammate I had huge admiration and huge respect for him." — Colts kicker Adam Vinatieri