Looking at Rashean Mathis’ short NFL career, it seems that, as he has said, he was destined to be here. Being elected to the Pro Bowl for the first time in 2006, Mathis joins another Jacksonville area athlete, Champ Bailey, as the starting corners for the AFC in this year’s game in Hawaii.
Mathis is tied for the league lead in interceptions with 7, has 17 official passes defended and played well on the big stage of the two Monday Night games against both Pittsburgh and New York. But it might be his consistency and his continued improvement that impressed the voters and the fans.
“My teammates are responsible for this,” Rashean told me on the phone shortly after his election was revealed. “No cornerback makes the Pro Bowl on his own. The guys up front have to do their job, they have to pressure the quarterback, the safeties have to be in position and I just have to make some plays.”
I covered Rashean in High School, but he dropped off my radar in college when he attended Bethune Cookman. Even though he led the nation in interceptions as a 4-year starter in Daytona, he was considered a “lower class” player by most observers.
Except those who scout for the NFL.
They seemed to see the things in Rashean that have put him in the Pro Bowl when he was in college. That’s why the Jaguars made him their second round pick bringing a resounding “who?” from their fans. But he has speed, skill and desire. That’s why as he improved, the Jaguars gave him more and more responsibility. He kept improving and went from safety to corner.
“I was just an athlete playing corner that first year,” Mathis is fond of saying. “I’ve started to learn how to play this position now.”
Rashean knew early on he could compete at the highest level. “At the Senior Bowl, I looked around and noticed that I could play with those guys and I figure these were the guys going into the NFL and said ‘yeah, I can play with them.”
Rashean is an unassuming guy, close to his mother and grandmother and pleasant to be around. Florida State fans will lament that his scholarship offer during his senior year was rescinded because of a broken leg. “Come over to Tallahassee and we’ll see how your leg responds,” is how his recruiter put it.
“Oh no,” Rashean’s Mom told him. “You’re going somewhere where they’re going to take care of you.” That’s how he ended up at B-CC with Alvin Wyatt.
Rashean is an unassuming guy, close to his mother and grandmother and pleasant to be around. His demeanor convinced me that he would be the perfect host for our weekly “End Zone” show on Monday nights. He’s turned out to be as good a guy as he is a player.
Part of my job is to fine-tune the on-air performance of the players who have hosted the show and Rashean has come as far as anybody has. He works on his language skills. He’s accepting of criticism and advice. Like what the coaches saw at every level he’s played football, I’m seeing him improve and continue to try and get better.
And that’s all anybody can ask.
Work at it, play as hard as you can, and see how you’re doing when it’s over. That might just get you to the Pro Bowl.