Just before the Indianapolis Colts took to the practice field for the first workout in a three-day mini-camp, outside linebacker Robert Mathis and wide receiver Phillip Dorsett were among the players who expressed their appreciation for legendary boxer Muhammad Ali, who died Friday at the age of 74.
The former heavyweight champion's last fight was in 1981, 10 months after Mathis was born.
"Legends never die," Mathis said, "so he'll always be alive in my book."
The Colts' all-time sack leader enjoys watching replays of Ali's fights and appreciates how "The Greatest" was able to win the heavyweight belt three times. More importantly, Mathis was impressed by Ali's impact on society as a role model for blacks, a man who refused to be drafted into the Vietnam War and eventually received vindication from a U.S. Supreme Court unanimous decision.
In later years, Ali became even more of a polarizing figure, for his humanitarianism, philanthropy and courageous three-decade battle against Parkinson's disease.
Dorsett is just 23, but very much aware of Ali's impact.
"He's definitely been an inspiration to every athlete," the second-year pro said. "He was 'The Greatest.' 'The Greatest' of all time."
Phillip B. Wilson also can be found on Facebook and Google+.