From a small school, Bethune-Cookman, Rashean Mathis has turned all the doubters into converters. They have been converted to believe in him and everything he represents. The Chargers believe, so much so they may be trying to get into the top half of the second round to ensure they get him.
Before the 2002 season Mathis had stated, "My goal is to beat the 11 picks I had two years ago," he said. "I want to have the best year I've had at Cookman, and by that I mean winning the MEAC. If we do that I know the scouts will see me."
He did more than that and now is being tabbed as a possible late first round Draft pick all because he wanted to return for his senior season.
Ht: 6-1 Wt: 202
40 Times: 4.47/4.47
Bench Press: 22 reps
|"Fluid, athletic defensive back who can be used at a number of positions. Technically Sound; can pedal, turn then run and flashes on the scene. Quick anticipating the action, reads the quarterbacks eyes and quickly picks up assignments. Takes good angles to the action, displays an explosive break on the ball and top recovery speed. Disciplined in center field and shows good wherewithal. Outstanding ball skills, hands and a ball magnet when the pass is in the air. Combines both tremendous physical skills and a feel for coverage to get the job done. Offers potential at cornerback but may be best in nickel situations as a rookie and a player who can develop into a complete and game impacting free safety." Tony Pauline-TFY Draft Preview|
Mathis was named the ninth winner of the Buck Buchanan Award, given annually to the top defensive player in I-AA football.
Mathis recorded 14 interceptions during the 2002 regular season, shattering the previous I-AA single-season mark of 12 picks, set by Princeton's Dean Cain in 1987. With 445 interception return yards on the season, Mathis surpassed the previous record of 280, established by Murray State's William Hampton in 1995. The Jacksonville, FL native led B-CC to an 11-1 record, helping the school to its first outright Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference title since 1984 and first I-AA playoff berth in school history.
"It's a great honor to be considered as a finalist, even a greater honor to win," said Mathis. "Being the first defensive back to ever win this award is truly amazing. This year was a great year for the team as a whole. We accomplished things that no other team at B-CC has done before. This award is not only mine, it is also a credit to the great job the team and coaching staff has done this season."
Mathis has built a reputation as a hard hitter who's capable of picking off passes and making heroic interception and punt returns. He can even return short field goals, which he did two years against archrival Florida A&M, taking a short boot from one end zone to the other for a touchdown.
Mathis is an unbelievable athlete. He is a playmaker in the defensive backfield with excellent ball skills that can make yards after an INT with his speed and athleticism. He will be raw technically as a corner, but athletic enough to make the move. There is no doubting his coverage ability and instincts.
There remains some mixed signals on Mathis. He held his own at cornerback during the Senior Bowl which has some thinking he could move into the late 1st Round, but with his lack of experience at corner, and the level of competition he regularly faced he could drop into the second round.
The Chargers love his cover skills and speed in the defensive backfield. With the desperate need for playmakers in the cover-2 defense they have made Mathis among their many targets. Especially in the tough AFC West, known for its high potent passing offenses, Mathis is a rarity despite his lack of playing against top flight competition. Mathis will not come easy as the Oakland Raiders have their eyes on him with one of their two picks ending round one.
Special thanks to Tony Pauline who contributed to this report.
Denis Savage can be reached at email@example.com or via the following link: Denis Savage
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