INDIANAPOLIS -- Robert Mathis never got to see Deacon Jones take down opposing quarterbacks in person. He learned to appreciate Jones creativity over time. The Colts Pro Bowl linebacker and newly crowned sacks champion was honoured Thursday as the inaugural winner of the NFLs Deacon Jones Award, which goes to the leagues sacks leader. Mathis will be recognized at the NFL award banquet Feb. 1. "Deacon Jones is the creator of the sack, so to be able to win the first award in his honour is an honour," Mathis told reporters in Indianapolis. "Im very proud that I was able to win it and I thank my teammates, mainly the d-line, who were very instrumental in helping me get to the quarterback." League officials named the award after Jones died June 3 at age 74. Jones was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 1980. Mathis has been one of the leagues top sack artists since joining the Colts as a fifth-round draft pick in 2003. For nearly a decade, Mathis and Dwight Freeney were among the NFLs most feared pass-rushing tandems. But when Freeney left in free agency during the off-season, the critics contended Mathis would struggle without his longtime teammate and close friend. Instead, Mathis used it as motivation. When asked Thursday why he has played so well over the years, Mathis responded: "The fact that I do have a chip on my shoulder every time I play. When people say you cant do something, you want to show them that you can." So the 32-year-old who is in his second season as a rush linebacker delivered the best season of his career. He broke Freneeys franchise record for sacks in a season (16) with 19 1/2 and became the Colts career sacks leader (111), surpassing Freeneys previous mark (107 1/2). Mathis finished the regular season with 65 tackles, matched his career high with eight forced fumbles -- two of which led to safeties -- and helped lead the Colts to their first AFC South title without Peyton Manning. Indy (11-5) will host Kansas City (11-5) on Saturday afternoon in a wild-card game. Mathis, who was the sacks leader most of the season, even came up with two sacks in the regular-season finale to move past St. Louis Robert Quinn and join Freeney as the only Colts players to win a sacks title. Freeney took that honour in 2004. Virgil van Dijk Jersey
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