Mathis is one sack shy of elite company

INDIANAPOLIS – Robert Mathis’ first sack came on Sept. 14, 2003, against Tennessee at home at the RCA Dome.

Now, a little more than 10 years later, the Indianapolis Colts’ rushing linebacker can get the 100th sack of his career in front of the home crowd – this time at Lucas Oil Stadium – on Sunday when the Colts take on the undefeated Seattle Seahawks.

“Hopefully you keep it going and give the fans something to appreciate,” Mathis said.

The next time he takes down a quarterback, Mathis would become the 30th player in NFL history to record 100 sacks. That’s something players such as Warren Sapp and Joey Porter never accomplished in their careers.

But go back to 2003, when the thought of reaching 100 sacks in his career was the last thing on Mathis’ mind. He simply wanted to stick on an NFL roster.

Mathis wasn’t talented enough, he was too small, he didn’t have a position, he played at a Division I-AA school. That’s all he heard from the critics.

Mathis wasn’t going to let the so-called experts keep him from getting where he wanted to be. And that’s why he’s on the brink of joining some special company.

“I tip my hat to Rob 'cause he’s one of the guys I look up to on this team,” Colts safety Antoine Bethea said. “Coming from a black college and what he’s been able to do in this league, he’s doing a hell of a job. He still plays with a chip on his shoulder. That says a lot about a guy who has made multiple Pro Bowls.”

Mathis teamed with Dwight Freeney for 10 seasons to harass quarterbacks as the bookends on the Colts' defensive line. Freeney wasn’t brought back during the offseason, leading to questions as to whether Mathis could still be effective without his partner.

Mathis didn’t try to act like he wasn’t aware of what was being said about him. He read and heard about the comments.

And so far this season Mathis has silenced the naysayers -- he's tied for the league lead in sacks with 7.5.

“That chip is still on my shoulder,” he said. “Me and Dwight, we got after the quarterbacks real good for a better part of a decade, so it’s something we did together. I guess that’s what kind of irks me a little bit. I don’t like being viewed as a beneficiary. I feel like that takes away from the grind and hard work and dedication I put in.”

Does Mathis feel he'll still have to prove himself after he gets his 100th sack?

Of course. He knows the criticism won’t stop.

“It won’t go anywhere until I’m done playing,” Mathis said. “So as long as I’m playing and I’m on the field, it’s something I have to prove.”