Seven years after leaving Alabama A&M to get drafted in the 5th round by the Indianapolis Colts, Colts defensive stud and all-around cool guy Robert Mathis went back to college, finished his school requirements, and got his degree.
From the Huntsville Times:
"I always like to finish what I start," Mathis said in an interview with The Times before walking with more than 500 other graduates. "It's been bothering me. I've been blessed enough to win the Super Bowl, go to two (Super Bowls) but you want that degree. "You were here four years, put in the work and the hard labor and you want to reap the benefits of your labor."
I hope we fans never get numb to this kind of stuff; seeing good guys do responsible, respectable things during a time of year while others are getting caught having sex with under-age hookers in a hotel room. It's just kind of cool to have a team full of players like Robert Mathis. Meet him in person and he's the nicest, most "real" player I've seen. He'll talk about anything, and loves to joke that his favorite thing to do in the entire world is sack Tom Brady.
Well, for one day at least, sacking Tom Brady took a back seat to getting a degree in Physical Education. Unlike the somewhat douchy guys who were my PE teachers in junior high and high school, I get the sense that if Robert Mathis ever had to run a class, it would be quite fun.
"You never know what life holds for you in the future," Mathis said. "A play here, a play there and it's all snatched away from you. You have to have a safety net."
If Mathis wasn't inspiring enough as an NFL star, his legacy at Alabama A&M has perhaps been cemented by returning to school to get his degree.
"He didn't leave the school and said to heck with the studies," A&M coach Anthony Jones said. "We knew he was going to be drafted but he stayed in good academic standing, which is very, very important.
"Even though it was an academic bridge, he didn't burn any bridges. So when he decided it was time to come back, he was able to come back and get back in the flow of things and get this thing completed."
Stories like this also help a small program like Alabama A&M build standing with recruits. College football is all about recruiting, not coaching. And while I am sure coach Jones is a fine Xs and Os guy, he needs a story like Mathis' to sell to kids who are considering his school, which is a historically black university, much like Grambling. Both Alabama A&M and Grambling play in the SWAC conference.
For history nuts like me, Alabama A&M is kind of a fascinating university. It was founded in 1875, only ten years after it was perfectly legal for white people to own black people as property in the state of Alabama. For the university to last this long, and to educate quality graduates like Robert Mathis, is a major accomplishment.