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O-Zone: All Rashean all the time

JACKSONVILLE – Some days it's best to get out of the way.

With former Jaguars cornerback Rashean Mathis scheduled to be at EverBank Field Wednesday to celebrate his retirement from the NFL, I asked readers to share their thoughts on a player who began his career as a second-round draft selection in 2003 and went on to start a decade in Jacksonville.

The readers responded; those responses are below.

My first thought was to answer or comment on all responses, but this is Mathis' day – and the readers' day. So, I opted to mostly say little or nothing at all.

Mathis was a class act, and a Jacksonville native. He also was perhaps the best defensive back in franchise history, and an All-Pro player in 2006. He played at a high level here for a long time, and was a valuable member of the community.

Reader responses reflected all of that in ways that were personal, heartfelt and passionate.

So, now, I'll mostly get out of the way and let the readers have their say regarding a player who will be honored Wednesday and deservedly so.

Let's get to it … Austin from Jacksonville:
My favorite Rashean Mathis play was in a Monday Night Football game against the Steelers in 2006. We were up 9-0 in an amazing defensive battle. The Steelers were driving and Mathis got an amazing pick and returned it to the three-yard line to seal the game. He always had his best games against the Steelers.
John: Mathis had eight interceptions in his 2006 All-Pro season, but indeed few seemed to resonate with fans as much as this one that clinched a Week 2 prime-time victory over Pittsburgh.
Aaron from Chehalis, WA:
Rashean Mathis is without question one of my favorite Jaguars of all-time. His is the only sports jersey I've ever owned. Most will point out his big plays against the Steelers, but a game against the Packers late in the 2004 season stands out to me. We were still in the playoff hunt and needed some big plays to secure a big road win. Mathis stepped up, intercepting Brett Favre twice. The one that stands out to me was late in the game with Packers driving, down 21-17. They drive it all the way down to the three-yard line. First and goal, Favre drops back to pass and fires a bullet – but Mathis is right there for the pick. "The easiest pick I ever had," he later said, but it came at the perfect time as the Jags won a critical road game against a tough opponent with the playoffs on the line. It was only Favre's second loss in sub-40-degree, cold-weather games at home. It was a great feeling to beat a good team on the road like that – a feeling I hope we get to experience more in the coming years!
Kevin from Jacksonville:
I cannot believe there are a few Jags fans on this site disparaging Rashean Mathis. Mathis was for many years a great player and a great ambassador for the franchise and city.
John: Fans fan and criticize; it's what they do. Mathis played at a high level and did so with class; it's what he did.
Max from Orlando, FL:
Let's not forget Rashean Mathis's noteworthy community involvement as a member of the Jacksonville Journey's "Positive Youth Development Committee," which focuses on keeping Jacksonville's youth off the path of crime and waywardness. They support after-school programs, encourage mentoring and volunteerism and expansion of summer jobs programs. Yeah, Mr. Mathis was a great player for the Jags, but he was a great addition to the community as well. Welcome home, Rashean, and thank you.
John: Well said.
Ty from Jack Town:
My Rashean memory is off the field. He was sitting to have a beer and a bite to eat, like any normal adult, but after a bad Jaguar loss. I don't remember the year, but I was sitting a few seats from him at the bar/restaurant and a few guys started talking about how he was overrated, and a garbage player. They didn't say it to him, but rather very much loud enough for him to hear. He smiled, and when they were through, walked over and said "Go Jags, can I buy you a round?" Pure class. He handled himself like a pro on and off the field.
John: Yes, he did.
Camron from Orlando, FL:
Favorite Mathis highlight: January 5, 2008. In Pittsburgh. At the time, I lived in Pennsylvania, so it was very rare to see Jags games - especially live. I'm sitting in this frigid stadium wearing teal and black, concerned that if we win I might be stabbed on my way to my car (kidding; this was Pittsburgh, not Baltimore). Mathis shows up with two crucial interceptions, including a Pick 6. TO. THE. HOUSE.
Jonathan from Los Angeles, CA:
Rashean Mathis was one of my favorite Jaguars ever, and he is severely underrated. He was hands down the best cornerback we have ever had, and our fan base forgets how good he was. His 30 career interceptions are by far the most in franchise history. Second place is 15 (Aaron Beasley). No one on our roster is close, so Mathis' record likely will stand over a decade. At one point Mathis was one of the best defensive backs in the league. His three-year peak from 2004-2006 produced 18 interceptions and 57 passes defensed, which are incredible numbers. The 57 passes defensed led the NFL over that three-year span and the 18 interceptions were second only to Champ Bailey (21), who was widely considered the best cornerback on earth at the time. My favorite Rashean Mathis moment was against the Steelers in the Jaguars' last playoff game. It is a unique play that may never be replicated in the NFL. Mathis intercepted Ben Roethlisberger on the sideline, and his whole body was barely in bounds so he stood up and returned the pick. However, his long dreadlocks touched the grass out of bounds as he was gathering himself near the sideline, so was ruled out of bounds. I don't think any other play in NFL history has ever ended with a player being called out of bounds because his hair touched the sideline.
John: Mathis indeed deserves recognition as the best defensive back in Jaguars history. At this point, I don't know that it's close.
Philip from Belleville, NJ:
My favorite Rashean Mathis story was in 2009 versus the Jets, the game where Maurice Jones-Drew famously took a knee at the 1 to preserve the victory. I dragged my girlfriend at the time to the game and let her pick the jersey she wanted. Her choices were David Garrard, MJD, or Mathis. Her lucky number happened to be 27 so she of course picked Mathis. She wasn't that much of a football fan but she knew the Jaguars at the time were not that good. As soon as Mathis intercepted that Mark Sanchez pass, she stands and screams, "That's my guy," and points to her jersey in front of all the Jets fans. Looks over at me and says "maybe the Jaguars aren't that bad after all." I was never more proud to be a Jaguars fan than in that moment.
Adam from Jacksonville:
Around 2000, I played football at Englewood with Rashean. I didn't know him well, but I knew who he was. He was "The Man" on campus. He played quarterback and some defense for us. He had a reputation of being the best player on the team and good dude. His senior year he participated in spring training ... I know right? I'll never forget one practice: It was a quarterback option, but he kept it. I'm running up to make the tackle (strong safety) and he lowered his shoulder into me and took me out. Needless to say, I didn't make the tackle. I played football growing up and it was the hardest I'd ever been hit.
John: Sometimes people watch NFL players and wonder, "Are they that much better than everyone else who plays?" Yes, usually.
Steve from Section 206:
I got Rashean's black authentic jersey when he was a rookie. He signed it for me after one of the practices and he was a very cool person. Years later I got him to sign over the old autograph because it had faded so much. Rashean is all class and Jaguars fans should be very proud of our hometown boy.
John: I covered Mathis' final two seasons in Jacksonville. That was more than enough to know I would have enjoyed covering him more. He indeed was class – and he was just as classy and gentlemanly after loss as after victories. That's not always true; when it is, it's appreciated.
Cliff from Orange Park, FL:
My wife was a huge Rashean Mathis fan. She painted a banner depicting No. 27 as the Predator and hung it the corner of the North end zone for several seasons. How long do we have to wait for his induction into the Pride?
John: I don't know, but I don't think it will be forever.
Kevin from Jacksonville:
I was pumping gas at a Hess station on Beach Boulevard. Rashean pulled up to the pump next to me and we started talking. The cool thing was the discussion wasn't even about football. He's just a nice person and represented the best of the Jaguars.
John: Yes.
Ryk from Fernandina Beach, FL:
The years 2000-2002 were exciting times for the Bethune-Cookman Wildcats. I remember being dragged to a BCC game: after Rashean intercepted and returned to the house, I was hooked. There were many enjoyable JAG games with him patrolling the badlands. Well done, Rashean.
Jake from Edinporo, PA:
I started watching the Jaguars when I was a kid, because my aunt and uncle lived in Hilton Head, S.C. – and when the Panthers and Jaguars came into the league, they decided to follow the Jags. At some point, I fell out of love with football until I was 15 or 16 and decided to watch that Jags-Steelers game in 2005. Rashean's Pick six in OT was the single moment where I remember falling back in love with the game. I suppose I should, to some degree, thank Tommy Maddox for that, but Rashean helped me not only fall back in love with football, but with the Jaguars as well. Thank you for all you do John, and if you happen to see Rashean, let him know that he made at least this Jags fan's life a whole lot happier. #DTWD #RMTWD
John: #RMTWD
Mark from College Park, MD:
Favorite Rashean moment: in New York, an interception off Mark Sanchez. It wasn't a sexy pick with a big return but the celebration as if he was a "Jet Plane" was loud enough for everyone in NYC to take notice.
Greg from Jacksonville Beach, FL:
Met Rashean at Phantom Fireworks one year when he first arrived. Thought to myself, "Damn, that dude isn't that big." Guess what? Didn't matter. Dude could straight up ball out. Congrats Rashean and thanks for the memories.
Chris from Mandarin, FL:
My favorite memory of Rashean Mathis was when his dreadlocks landed on the turf out of bounds negated a second pick six in the playoffs against the Steelers following the 2007 season. The Jags won the game anyway, so it was hilarious. One fer the Predator.
John: One fer the Predator.
Greg from Jacksonville:
Rashean Mathis memories … well, mine is a little different. See, I sit really low in my section, and I remember every. single. game. he came over and said, "Hi." One time he walked over during warmups just to give a pregame ball to a kid – made his day. He often shook hands with the fans in the stands in the North End Zone – and was always approachable for a kind word or handshake. That speaks 1000 percent times more to me than his on-the-field play. He was an all-star community citizen and humble player. Thanks for that, Rashean. You will always be a Jag in our hearts.
John: Indeed.

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