NFL honors Colts' Mathis with Deacon Jones Award
INDIANAPOLIS (AP) — Robert Mathis never got to see Deacon Jones take
down opposing quarterbacks in person.
He learned to appreciate Jones' creativity over time.
The Colts Pro Bowl linebacker and newly crowned sacks champion was
honored Thursday as the inaugural winner of the NFL's Deacon Jones
Award, which goes to the league's sacks leader. Mathis will be
recognized at the NFL award banquet Feb. 1.
"Deacon Jones is the creator of the sack, so to be able to win the
first award in his honor is an honor," Mathis told reporters in
Indianapolis. "I'm very proud that I was able to win it and I thank my
teammates, mainly the d-line, who were very instrumental in helping me
get to the quarterback."
League officials named the award after Jones died June 3 at age 74.
Jones was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 1980.
Mathis has been one of the league's top sack artists since joining the
Colts as a fifth-round draft pick in 2003. For nearly a decade, Mathis
and Dwight Freeney were among the NFL's most feared pass-rushing
But when Freeney left in free agency during the offseason, the critics
contended Mathis would struggle without his longtime teammate and close
Instead, Mathis used it as motivation. When asked Thursday why he has
played so well over the years, Mathis responded: "The fact that I do
have a chip on my shoulder every time I play. When people say you can't
do something, you want to show them that you can."
So the 32-year-old who is in his second season as a rush linebacker
delivered the best season of his career.
He broke Freneey's franchise record for sacks in a season (16) with 19½
and became the Colts' career sacks leader (111), surpassing Freeney's
previous mark (107½). Mathis finished the regular season with 65
tackles, matched his career high with eight forced fumbles — two of
which led to safeties — and helped lead the Colts to their first AFC
South title without Peyton Manning.
Indy (11-5) will host Kansas City (11-5) on Saturday afternoon in a
Mathis, who was the sacks leader most of the season, even came up with
two sacks in the regular-season finale to move past St. Louis' Robert Quinn and join Freeney as the only Colts players to win a sacks title.
Freeney took that honor in 2004.
NFL Honors Mathis With Award
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