Evan Mathis is a Left Guard for the Philadelphia Eagles. He was recognized as one of the best in the nation at the guard position last season, and ProFootballFocus selected Evan as their choice for NFC Pro Bowl representative. Evan has been in the league since 2005 when he was selected by the Carolina Panthers in the third round. He has also played with the Miami Dolphins and Cincinnati Bengals before landing with the Eagles in 2011, where he won a starting position for the first time in his career. Evan took some time away from his busy off-season and active twittering at @EvanMathis69 to talk with us about his experience in the NFL and the terrific season he had last year.
DLF: Thanks for agreeing to this interview, Evan. How is the off-season going for you?
EM: My pleasure. My off-season is going very well. I’m out in Arizona just training hard and getting ready for the 2012 season.
DLF: Your 2011 off-season workout at Zone Athletic Performance resulted in a pretty amazing physical transformation in just 8 weeks (of a total 28 week program – check the video below). Why did you decide to start Zone, and how much do you think this program contributed to what was pretty clearly your best season last year?
EM: I’ve always had a passion for the fitness and the performance industries. The same is true with my brother, Adam, who went to Alabama and got an Exercise Science and Human Nutrition degree. He now has multiple certifications, a great training resume, and is one of our performance specialists at Zone. And since I know how important off-season training is for a professional athlete, I thought there was nothing I could do better with my spare time in the off-season. Before the 2011 season, it was my first off-season training with Garrett Shinoskie, Zone’s director of athletic performance, and Adam. They are the best I’ve ever been around when it comes to getting the most out of an athlete. They custom design the workouts based on multiple factors. The position you play, your body type, metabolism, injury history, goals, work ethic and many more important things all factor into the equation. They helped me bring out my best and it showed on the field last season.
DLF: The 2011 season was certainly disappointing for the Eagles. Many folks thought the Eagles had a “Dream Team” capable of going all the way, yet you finished one game behind the Giants in the NFC East. What do you think were the biggest reasons the Eagles didn’t translate all that talent into a playoff appearance, much less a Super Bowl run, and how do you see the team correcting those issue for next season?
EM: The bottom line was turnovers. When you give the ball away more than you take it away, you’re putting yourself behind the eight ball.
DLF: Do you pay much attention to the NFL Draft in general? Do you or your teammates discuss who the team should be drafting?
EM: The only players I have any quality insight on are the guys I’ve been watching all year. As an Alabama alum, I’ll follow the talent that Bama puts into the league. I don’t like to make opinions on players without watching a lot of film so I don’t act like I’m an expert when it comes to the draft.
DLF: So earlier this year you caught some heat regarding a Tweet about coach Andy Reid. Do you feel like the fans and media in Philly heard what you had to say and have moved on, or do you still get some flack about that?
EM: I’m sure there’s still some that will be bitter about it. I understand that not everybody shares the same opinion on any subject. As abrasive as the tweet was, I expected a loud reaction from some of those on the other side of the fence.
DLF: It’s been noted that you are among the NFL players who have embraced social media and who use it really well. I think the upside for connecting with fans in this way is pretty obvious. Has there been a negative side for you to reaching out to all those NFL fans via Twitter?
EM: Other than the one you just mentioned not at all. I was first and foremost a fan of the sport. Had Twitter existed in the days when I was growing up watching NFL games, I would have really respected players interacting with fans. I really try to have fun with it more than anything. I’ve said it many times before, the only thing that I take seriously in this world is football.
DLF: You have played really well in both pass-protection and run-blocking formations. Do you prefer one over the other? And at the OG position, what are the essential different techniques you have to master?
EM: When I am able to play with the most aggression I am at my very best. I can play with aggression in pass protection, but I can play with more on run plays. With that said, I slightly prefer run blocking to pass blocking. I will still give my all no matter the play called. There are many different techniques to master each, but some of the notables are playing under control, putting your hands and head in the right place, and knowing who the hell you’re supposed to block.
DLF: Did you ever play any other positions in High School or College?
EM: I played DE in high school and to this day wish I could still get a few shots at it in the NFL. I have experience at all 5 OL spots but guard is what I’m working to perfect.
DLF: I think every kid who has ever played football in the street has dreamed about playing in the NFL some day. Finally making it must have felt pretty amazing. After eight years in the NFL, is it still as exciting as it was when you first played with the Panthers? And what has been the most surprising negative for you about playing in the NFL?
EM: In hindsight, the first 6 years of my career were just a learning experience as I took the road less traveled to get where I am now. I consider 2011 the start of my actual career. Just now am I starting to gain recognition as an elite guard. I know I still have plenty of room to improve so I will continue to do that. I will never say that I made it until I’ve retired and can look back on my accomplishments and decide if they are worthy or not. The only negative thing for me was not being a perennial starter over the course of my first 6 years.
DLF: Do you play or have any interest in fantasy football? Do any of the guys in the locker room ever talk about fantasy football?
EM: I tried doing it a couple times but I would get so wrapped up in actual football that I would not put the proper amount of effort into it. I’d always forget to prepare my rosters and I’d be starting players that were on IR or enjoying their bye week. It takes a lot of time, having a good understanding of what’s going on, and a little luck to succeed in fantasy football.
DLF: OK, honestly, what do NFL players really think about fantasy football fans? Do they think they are a bunch of geeks? Do they appreciate the added interest they bring to the game? Or do they just not really even care?
EM: We definitely appreciate the added interest it brings to the game. We would never consider fantasy football fans a bunch of geeks. That would be like calling guys who play Madden geeks. They are just avid fans of the game just like every single one of us is.
DLF: Thanks a ton for spending some time with us, Evan. We’re all pulling for you and hope you make it to the Pro Bowl next season!
EM: Anytime. Hopefully I’ll have to decline my Pro Bowl invite because I’ll be preparing for the Super Bowl.
Be sure to follow Evan on Twitter at @EvanMathis69. He is always entertaining, and definitely worth a follow!