We conclude this week’s look at NFL retirements by focusing on a Colts legend, prospective Hall of Famer Robert Mathis.
Robert Mathis‘ career only really took off after he had been in the league for five seasons. At a time when most players are thinking of getting out of the NFL, he was only just hitting his stride. A fifth round pick in the 2003 Draft, he played thirteen seasons for an Indianapolis team whose progress almost mirrored his, getting better as he got better and then tailing off as injuries took their toll on him.
Over that time, Mathis notched up a remarkable 123 sacks, leaving him 17th on the all time list. The majority of those came in a golden six seasons between 2008 and 2013, during which time he was also elected to every Pro Bowl. In the last of those years, he had an NFL best 19.5 sacks. He was a master of the strip-sack, in which he still holds the NFL record, which he extended to 47 in his final game.
A serious Achilles tendon injury cost him the whole of the 2014 season and he was never quite the same player thereafter. Nevertheless, he will be remembered as one of the finest outside linebackers of his generation. He will be a surefire candidate for the Hall of Fame in five years’ time, especially given that only one of the eligible players ahead of him on that all time sacks list is not the owner of a gold jacket.