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View from the O-Zone: Mathis class on and off the field


JACKSONVILLE – The inevitable came for Rashean Mathis Tuesday, as it inevitably does.

"I think it's time to hang up the cleats," Mathis told

With that, one of the Jaguars' all-time great players – defense or otherwise – announced he will retire after 13 productive, classy, memorable NFL seasons.

No, retirement didn't come as a member of his hometown Jaguars. Mathis left the Jaguars in the 2013 offseason, spending his last three seasons with Detroit. But that doesn't diminish what Mathis meant to this team, nor does it doesn't diminish the decade he spent in Jacksonville.

It sure doesn't diminish his legacy on or off the field.

"He was very professional in everything he did," Jaguars middle linebacker Paul Posluszny, who played with Mathis 2011-12, said Tuesday. "As a teammate, you always knew what you were going to get from him. You knew you were going to get his best preparation, his best effort and you knew he was going to try to play at his highest level.

"He was very reliable when it came to that."

Mathis, a second-round selection by the Jaguars in the 2003 NFL Draft, played collegiately for Bethune-Cookman in Daytona Beach after playing at Englewood High School in Jacksonville.

He moved into the starting lineup for his hometown team immediately, developing quickly into a durable, reliable corner for some of the best defenses in franchise history.

"Jacksonville is home," Mathis told  "Ten years here, I couldn't ask for anything better. Ten years, playing in front of your high school and middle school friends … it's amazing."

Mathis started all 16 games in his first four NFL seasons, and until a torn anterior cruciate ligament nine games into the 2011 season, he missed just 12 starts in eight and a half NFL seasons. His 30 interceptions in 10 seasons are a Jaguars career record, and he returned three of those interceptions for touchdowns. He registered five interceptions in 2004, five more in 2005, and his eight interceptions in 2006 were tied for third in the NFL and are a franchise record.

Mathis was the AFC's Defensive Player of the Week in Week 3 of the 2004 season and Week 2 of the 2006 season, being named first-team All-Pro in 2006 and making his lone Pro Bowl appearance the same season.

He recorded two interceptions in the Jaguars' 29-27 victory over the Pittsburgh Steelers in an AFC Wild-Card game following the 2007 season. He returned one of the interceptions for a touchdown.

He started all three seasons with Detroit after signing there as an unrestricted free agent in the 2013 offseason, starting the first seven games of this past season before sustaining a concussion and missing the rest of the season.

"I wanted to finish healthy," Mathis said. "I wanted to finish on a good note. It was a little sour my last year in Jacksonville being that I was coming off an ACL injury. My last three years in Detroit have been amazing for me. I couldn't ask for anything more than to go off on a happy ending."

Mathis on Tuesday told the Lions' website that while he would have preferred to finish the season healthy, he found peace with being out and was proud to have been a leader in the locker room through the second half of the season. That approach jives with his time in Jacksonville.

"The big thing that stood out with him is he was such a great teammate," Posluszny said. "Obviously, he was an outstanding player on the field, but he was a great teammate – very willing to help guys learn, get better. He would assist guys with whatever he could help with. That stood out right away."

Mathis, of course, indeed was a locker room leader, always willing to speak to the media in the toughest of situations. But more than that, he was a very good player – for not only some very good defenses, but some of the better teams in franchise history.

How good? He certainly was the best cornerback in franchise history; his 30 interceptions aren't just the franchise record, they are double that of second-place entrant Aaron Beasley.

How good? Maybe Top 10 all-time regardless of position. After Fred Taylor, Jimmy Smith, Tony Boselli, Mark Brunell, Maurice Jones-Drew and perhaps Keenan McCardell, few others would automatically be ahead of Mathis.

But for today, let's worry not about specifics and rankings. Instead, let's appreciate a remarkable story of a kid who starred for his hometown team, and did so with a smile, maturity and class that made him as appreciated off the field as he was productive on it.

"That's an unbelievable career," Posluszny said.

Indeed it was.

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