Sat, Sep 23, 2006 - Page 19 News List

Jaguar cornerback Mathis making mark in defense

AP , JACKSONVILLE, FLORIDA

When cornerback Rashean Mathis signed with the Jacksonville Jaguars, he bought his mother a house -- on the other side of town.

He knew if she lived too close, she would come over all the time.

"I love her. She's my role model. But I just couldn't have her around every second of the day," Mathis said.

Mathis leads the early NFL season with three interceptions, giving him 15 in his four-year career and more than anyone else drafted in 2003. Coach Jack Del Rio calls him one of the team's "rising stars" and it would be tough to argue, especially after the first two games.

Mathis played a pivotal role in wins against Dallas and Pittsburgh, helping to slow down Terrell Owens, Terry Glenn and Hines Ward and causing three turnovers so far this season.

He picked off a pass from Drew Bledsoe in the opener, returned it into Dallas territory and set up Jacksonville's first touchdown.

He intercepted two against the defending Super Bowl champions on Monday. The first one came with about five minutes to play. It essentially ended Pittsburgh's comeback attempt and led to a field goal that sealed the 9-0 victory.

His second came on Ben Roethlisberger's final pass. He cut underneath Cedric Wilson, caught the pass and returned it to the 2-yard line. The Jaguars ran out the clock from there.

Two days later, Mathis was chosen AFC defensive player of the week.

"He's really developed. He's really matured," safety Donovin Darius said. "I still don't think he's reached the tip of the iceberg. Not at all. From a technique standpoint, he's still a raw, talented guy. He has the mind and the heart to learn and get better. And he's reaping some of the benefits of the hard work he's put in. But the best is yet to come from him."

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