The common thread among this year's seniors is that most of them were called upon to contribute immediately upon their arrival at A&M. In 2009, Jonathan Stewart, Sean Porter, and Dustin Harris all saw time as starters on the defense as true freshmen. Spencer Nealy and Steven Terrell saw action in all 13 games as well. On the offensive side, Christine Michael was the Big 12 Newcomer of the Year. Uzoma Nwachukwu started from Day 1 and Ryan Swope and Kenric McNeal were contributors as well. Even punter Ryan Epperson got in on the act, taking the punting job from Ken Wood.
Jonathan Mathis is no different. Mathis joined the Ags in 2010 as a junior JUCO transfer from Blinn College where he was a part of their 2009 national title run. He began contributing immediately, playing in all 13 games. By the end of the season Mathis was ensconced as the starter at nose tackle, putting up respectable totals of 41 tackles and 3.5 TFL's.
In 2011, Mathis switched to defensive end during spring practice. He started the first 3 games of that season before suffering a torn ACL against Oklahoma State. Mathis received a medical redshirt, but the injury undoubtedly has been a major setback. Mathis discussed the injury with Richard Croome a few months ago.
"When I went down, I didn't know I had torn my ACL until the next day," Mathis said. "It was a big reality check for me and a big change because it was the first time getting injured and first time having surgery. I was nervous that I wasn't going to come back as healthy as I was before."
Mathis was right to be concerned as his return to full strength in 2012 has not been easy. Mathis spent the spring healing as Mark Snyder began installing the Aggies new 4-3 defensive scheme, and in the fall Mathis suffered injuries to his foot and hamstring that limited his participation in two-a-days, placing him further behind the learning curve. Still, Mathis managed to play in all 13 games, a tribute to his toughness and athleticism, and ended the season as a backup to Kirby Ennis at defensive tackle. However, Mathis came on strong towards the end of the campaign as he began approaching full strength. He led the team in tackles against Sam Houston State and played particularly well against Oklahoma in the Cotton Bowl.
Defensive tackle is a position that can't be measured solely by statistics so its somewhat difficult to measure the impact Jonathan Mathis had on the playing field. However, its easy to discern that Mathis is a man of character from his willingness to change positions and his dedication to return from a serious injury. Jonathan Mathis bears all the hallmarks of this senior class; he contributed immediately, he overcame adversity, and he saved his best for last.