Evan Mathis is penciled in as the Eagles starting left guard, but two months ago he was staring into an uncertain future.
He was a 29-year-old free agent with three stops in a six-year pro career. He played the last three seasons in Cincinnati, but he had no desire to return. He hoped to catch on with another team, but the NFL lockout left him in limbo.
I thought something would happen, but you never know, Mathis said.
Rather than feel victimized by the lockout, Mathis used it as an opportunity. He decided to make a documentary film about the owners-versus-players conflict and examine it from the inside. A crew was assembled, interviews were shot and a movie trailer was produced although the film never was completed.
We couldnt raise enough money to finish it, Mathis said. The subject got old really quick. The fans were sick of it. Even I was tired of it. It got to a point where it was, like, nobody gives a damn.
It is too bad because Mathis was onto something. The trailer shows his interviews with other players, including former teammate Chad Ochocinco, and agents such as Drew Rosenhaus and it humanizes some issues that define the business aspect of professional sports.
As Mathis says: I grew up watching football and spent countless hours in the backyard trying to do what I had just seen on TV. As a six-year-old, I thought those guys were just out there playing for fun. Through each level I played, I gradually started to notice just how business oriented my passion was.
Mathis went from starring at Homewood (Al.) High School to All-Conference honors at the University of Alabama to third round draft pick of the Carolina Panthers in 2005. He has played for three more teams since then: Miami (2008), Cincinnati (2008-10) and now the Eagles.
With each change of address, Mathis saw more of the business side, yet he never lost his love of the game. He is still an idealist at heart, which is why he wanted to make the film in the first place. He hoped to put the lockout and the whole owner versus player thing in a fuller context.
Since Im a player, I think people expected the film to be totally slanted to the players and against the owners, Mathis said. It wasnt that way at all. We looked at the issues from both sides. I think what we had on film was very fair, but Im not sure it was that entertaining. Somewhere down the line it may be more interesting to people, but now they are tired of the subject. I get that.
Still, it was a fun thing to do, said Mathis. It helped take up my free time during the lockout.
Mathis enjoyed it enough to consider a career in film-making some day, but for now the 6-5, 300-pound lineman is stepping into the left guard spot vacated by Todd Herremans, who moved to right tackle. It is a move the Eagles coaches talked about for awhile, but it took Thursdays sorry performance by the O-line to force them to actually do.
The line should improve with Mathis lining up next to Pro Bowler Jason Peters on the left side and Herremans, a natural tackle, replacing King Dunlap on the right side. The hope is rookies Jason Kelce (center) and Danny Watkins (guard) will improve with more reps.
Mathis isnt an overpowering blocker, but he has good technique. A state championship wrestler in high school, he uses his feet well and has good balance. He played every line position in college while starting 47 consecutive games.
He started at left guard in Cincinnati and did not allow a sack the last two seasons, but he grew tired of the losing. He wanted to explore the free agent market. He did not sign with a team until late in July when the Eagles contacted Rosenhaus, his agent. Mathis took the next flight to Philadelphia. Now he is in the starting lineup.
Gee, sounds like a movie.