Mathis' road makes Pro Bowl, all-pro nods special

Mathis' road makes Pro Bowl, all-pro nods special

No Huddle: Best stories from the Eagles' 2013 season

January 19, 2014, 2:00 pm
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Evan Mathis had to wait nine NFL seasons before achieving his goal of being named a Pro Bowl and all-pro guard. (AP)

To really understand why this means so much to Evan Mathis, you have to reflect a little bit on his journey.

Mathis is with his fourth team in nine seasons. He averaged 3½ starts in his first six years in the NFL. Until this year, he had never been a full-time starter on a winning team. He turned 32 during the season.

From the Panthers to the Bengals to the Dolphins to the Eagles, Mathis tried to find a home. The team changed, but the goal didn’t.

He wanted to be the best.

So for Mathis to be a first-time Pro Bowl pick and a first-time all-pro a decade into his career, that’s special, and he’s not going to pretend it’s not.

“I’ve always dreamed big and worked hard to attain my goals,” Mathis said. “Early in my career, it was tough to aim so high and fall so short.

“I learned from all the experiences and stayed relentless despite the circumstances. Had I just been content being in the league, I wouldn't have lasted long.”

Mathis learned this past week that he had made the Pro Bowl team as an alternate. He had already been named to several all-pro teams, including the Associated Press team, which is considered the official one.

With Nick Foles and DeSean Jackson also making the Pro Bowl as alternates and joining Jason Peters and LeSean McCoy, the Eagles have five representatives on the all-star team a year after having none.

At 32, Mathis is the oldest first-time Pro Bowl Eagle in 44 years. In 1969, Eagles middle linebacker Dave Lloyd made his first Pro Bowl team after his 11th NFL season at the age of 33.

Mathis is the last survivor of the Eagles’ 2011 free agency class, and now he can finally call himself a Pro Bowler and an all-pro.

“They were both honors that I set as goals back in high school,” Mathis said. “It took a little longer than expected but I have no complaints about my journey.”

It’s been a curious few years for Mathis. He arrived in Philly as almost a footnote the same week as Nnamdi Asomugha, Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie, Cullen Jenkins, Ronnie Brown, Steve Smith and Vince Young.

Other than one year early in his career with the Panthers, he had never been a full-time starter. But he quickly separated himself in the competition for the starting left guard spot in the summer of 2011 and went on to play at a Pro Bowl level in both 2011 and 2012.

Over the past three years, Mathis has started more games (47) than anybody on the roster, and if he’s had a bad game along the way, nobody can recall it.

But while all the advanced metrics web sites that measure every snap taken by every player league-wide continued to trumpet Mathis as the NFL’s best guard, the Pro Bowl voters -- fans, coaches, players -- continued to ignore him.

Mathis didn’t hide the fact that it bugged him a little bit, but now Mathis can always call himself a Pro Bowl guard.

Finally.

The Pro Bowl is scheduled for next Sunday at the Aloha Bowl in Honolulu.

“People rarely pay attention to guard play and seem to vote on the names they recognize,” Mathis said.

“The last two years I was an alternate without placing in the fan vote. That means my only votes that counted were from players and coaches.

“It would be easier if there were common stats that could quantify the position. The touch of anonymity that comes with offensive line play is still something I appreciate though.”