When the Washington Commanders selected Phidarian Mathis in the second round of April's NFL Draft, he became the third Alabama defensive tackle on the roster. He joined his fellow Crimson Tide alumni to form a formidable defensive line.
Mathis expressed his excitement as soon as he joined the Commanders.
"Those (are) my big bros," Mathis said in his post-draft press conference. "I just talked to Jonathan Allen...and Payne, we talk all the time. It's a blessing to be back with Payne and also getting a chance to play with Jonathan Allen...I can't wait to get around those guys."
Thinking about it and actually playing with them are two different things. Now, Mathis is sharing the field with them and he's learning a lot from the two veterans.
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"Just watching how those guys come to practice," Mathis said. "How they work hard, how they take the game seriously, just watching their leadership, just falling in line, being right behind those guys, and just trying to learn from them every day.”
Learning is the key. Mathis could have been chosen by a team with bigger needs on the defensive line and it would have generated more playing time (and possibly a starting spot), but he lands in Washington ... which is a blessing and a curse.
It's a blessing to be able to play on a defensive with top-tier talent, it's a curse having to fight for playing time against these established players. But being an Alabama alum has helped Mathis navigate the depth chart.
"I'm not a selfish guy, I had to wait my time in Alabama," Mathis said. "I was there five years, so I understand what it means to wait. But you can't look at it like that. You got to look at it like, just come to practice, get better every day, and just be ready when your time comes.”
Mathis knows his time will come soon, even if it may not be this year, but by playing alongside his "big bros," he has greater odds to succeed once it's time to take the spotlight.