The Detroit Lions suffered a 17-14 loss to the Buffalo Bills on Sunday, dropping their record to 3-2. Despite the loss, there was a watershed moment for Lions DB Rashean Mathis, who picked off a pass and returned it 41 yards for a score.
The play was the kind that the Bethune-Cookman alum made for nearly a decade with the Jacksonville Jaguars. This pick was signifcant, because it was the first he had made in nearly three years, thanks to an ACL injury that effectively ended his time in Florida.
Ironically, it was another leg injury in high school that helped Mathis end up at Bethune. Mathis flourished as a Wildcat under the tutulege of head coach and former NFL defensive back Alvin "Shine" Wyatt. By the time he finished up his career in Daytona, Mathis owned the Division I-AA (now FCS) career mark for interceptions with 31.
His efforts led his hometown team, the Jaguars, to draft in the second round of the 2003 draft. Mathis was solid as a rookie, recording 81 tackles and picking off two passes. But when he was elevated to full-time cornerback in his second season, he really began to flourish.
Mathis would go on to pick off 18 passes over the next three seasons, highlighted by an eight-interception season in 2006 that resulted in a Pro Bowl selection.
While he wouldn't approach those numbers again, he remained a solid player until his injury during the 2011 season. He would return to the Jags the following year, recording no interceptions for the first time in his career. He moved on to Detroit, where managed to bat down 15 passes in 2013, but failed to come away with any interceptions.
Sunday's interception against Buffalo marked the 31st interception of Mathis's career, matching his college total. He told the Detroit Free Press he was saving the game ball for his two-year old son. However, Mathis says he doesn't want little R.J. playing football.
"I don't want him to," Mathis said. "He doesn't have to play any sport, as far as I'm concerned, but if he does get into it, football will be the last thing I introduce him to. Well, it's kind of hard being that I'm playing now and he's of age; he's already introduced to it, really."
At 34, Mathis is on the backside of his career. Still, as he showed on Sunday on his way to the endzone, he's got a little something left in the tank.