INDIANAPOLIS – Robert Mathis and Dwight Freeney soon will be together again at Lucas Oil Stadium.
The Indianapolis Colts announced Monday that Mathis, the franchise career sack leader, will be this year’s inductee to the Ring of Honor. The induction ceremony will take place Nov. 22 during halftime of a game against the Green Bay Packers.
Freeney was inducted in 2019, and fittingly his name will be enshrined forever next to Mathis. The duo terrorized quarterbacks together for 10 seasons in the Circle City, with Mathis recording 123 sacks for the Colts and Freeney finishing with 107.5 before joining the San Diego Chargers as a free agent in 2013.
At 6-foot-2 and 245 pounds, Mathis was considered undersized as a fifth-round pick out of Alabama A&M in 2003, and there was brief consideration given to making him a linebacker. But after making a name for himself on special teams as a rookie, Mathis settled in as a defensive end in 2004.
He had 10.5 sacks and six forced fumbles that season and added 11.5 sacks and eight forced fumbles a year later. Mathis became a full-time starter in 2006 and recorded 9.5 sacks during the regular season for the team that won Super Bowl XLI.
Mathis had 19 tackles, 1.5 sacks and three forced fumbles during the four postseason games that fall – including three tackles and a forced fumble in the Super Bowl.
In 18 career playoff games, Mathis had 55 tackles, 6.5 sacks and five forced fumbles.
His signature move was the strip sack, and nobody did it better in league history. Mathis retired in 2016 with an NFL-record 47 strip sacks.
“From a fifth-round pick from a small college to one of the most effective and feared defensive players in the NFL, Robert Mathis was a centerpiece of the historic Colts teams of the last two decades,” Indianapolis owner Jim Irsay said in a team release. “He was undersized and underrated, but he made up for it with a motor that wouldn’t quit and a flawless technique that outmatched the most talented linemen in the league.
“And to watch him strip-sack the quarterback – which he did better and more than anyone in NFL history – was a thing of beauty. What’s more, Robert has stayed connected to the Horseshoe and has helped guide and teach our next generation of players. We are so proud that his name and his Hall-of-Fame-worthy career will be celebrated and remembered in Indianapolis from this day forward.”
Mathis has served as a pass-rush consultant with the Colts since 2017. Promising young defensive end Kemoko Turay and undrafted rookie Kendall Coleman are among his most devoted students.
As a player, 2013 marked a high point for Mathis. He was named first team all-pro and led the league with 19.5 sacks, winning the inaugural Deacon Jones award.
That also was his first season playing without Freeney on the opposite side and just his second as an outside linebacker after the switch to a 3-4 defense under head coach Chuck Pagano in 2012.
Mathis spent his entire 14-year career with Indianapolis, appearing in 192 games with 121 starts. He was named to six straight Pro Bowls beginning in 2008
Mathis recovered 17 fumbles during his career and scored three touchdowns. In addition to his sack total, he finished with 108 tackles for loss and 141 quarterback hits.
Mathis will be the 17th player inducted into the Ring of Honor, joining Robert Irsay (1996), Bill Brooks (1998), Ted Marchibroda (2000), Chris Hinton (2001), Jim Harbaugh (2005), Colts Nation (2007), Tony Dungy (2010), Marvin Harrison (2011), Edgerrin James (2012), Eric Dickerson & Marshall Faulk (2013), Jeff Saturday (2015), Bill Polian (2016), Peyton Manning (2017), Reggie Wayne (2018) and Freeney.