LIONS INSIDER

Rashean Mathis ready to mentor Alex Carter

Posted May 13, 2015

Veteran cornerback Rashean Mathis is happy to take rookie Alex Carter under his wing and show him the ropes, much like he did with Darius Slay.

Rashean Mathis has known new rookie cornerback Alex Carter going on 10 years now.

Alex Carter’s father, Tom Carter, played in the league for 12 years and remained an advocate for the players union after his playing days were over. Mathis was a player rep in Jacksonville and Tom Carter would come down to Jacksonville every year and accompany Mathis on union trips. The two have remained friends ever since.

The first time Mathis met Alex Carter was at the Carter household in St. Augustine before a round of golf in 2005. Because of his friendship with Tom Carter, Mathis followed Alex’s progress through high school and at Stanford.

Rashean MathisCB Rashean Mathis (Photo: Gavin Smith)

During Day 2 of the NFL Draft on May 1, Mathis had fallen asleep during the third round and didn’t see the Lions pick Alex Carter live.

“When I woke up I had a text saying that we drafted Alex,” Mathis said. “I was like, ‘Alex Carter?’ Within 20 seconds I called Tom and he said, ‘your ears must have been ringing because we’ve been talking about you all night.’ I was like ‘you have to give me his number so I can reach out to him.’”

Mathis and Tom Carter spent the next 15 minutes on the phone and then Mathis sent Alex Carter a text a couple minutes later congratulating him on being selected by Detroit and telling him that if he needed anything at all to call or text.

If Carter is smart, he’ll take Mathis up on his offer.

PLAYER AND MENTOR

Mathis has been terrific both on and off the field for Detroit since coming over from Jacksonville before the 2013 season.

He’s started the last two seasons and was graded the 12th best cornerback in the NFL last year by Pro Football Focus.

Mathis has played a huge role in mentoring Darius Slay through his first two years in the NFL. Mathis made it his duty to take Slay under his wing and show him the ropes both on and off the field. The two have since built a close friendship and Slay has credited Mathis with helping him go from an inconsistent rookie in year one to one of the top young cornerbacks in the league in year two.

It's Mathis' plan to be the same kind of mentor for Alex Carter.

“I didn’t know Slay until I got here,” Mathis said. “I know Alex’s family and I know Alex. It’s kind of like it’s a family member that has gotten drafted. It makes me feel old, of course, because I knew the kid when he was like 12 years old.”

Mathis re-signed with the Lions for two more years this offseason, but at age 34, he knows Alex Carter could eventually be his replacement. That won’t stop him from passing on any knowledge to the youngster, however.

It’s something he learned early on in his career in Jacksonville when veterans Donovin Darius and Marlon McCree took him in and showed him the way when he first entered the league.

“It’s our job to take guys under our wing and teach them the ropes and not allow a guy to learn on his own because it makes a huge difference,” Mathis said. “I’ve seen both. I’ve seen guys try to do it on their own and the outcome of that is not as successful as guys who are willing to cling on to someone and say, ‘hey, yeah, I’m willing to learn. I know I’m a talent, but I’m still willing to learn.’”

Alex Carter appears to be the kind of player who will try to soak up as much info from the veterans as possible.

“You can’t come in saying you’re going to be a starter right now,” Carter said during rookie minicamp. “You have to work at the little things. You’ve got guys that are 30-years-old that have to feed their family too.

“You have to come in work on special teams first and foremost. Show the coaches you’re going to give your effort 100 percent. Do that and then just keep learning the defense as you go. Then work into the rotation.

“I’m coming in to compete. I’m going to learn from the older guys as much as I can and get ready to play.”

Veteran players like Jason Jones, Glover Quin, Haloti Ngata and Manny Ramirez all have a similar philosophy as Mathis when it comes to being veteran leaders.

“All of these guys have seen how it’s done,” Mathis said. “They took the onus on their shoulders to show other guys and not be selfish and be like, ‘Oh, I’m competing against you, I can’t teach you.’

“No, it’s not like that. We’re a team. I’ll teach you everything that I know, and if your talent is better than mine, then you’re on the field and I’m your supporting cast. Regardless of who plays, we need to be the best we can be.”

That’s huge for young players in this league and it’s not like that in every locker room, according to Mathis.

Alex Carter and the rest of the Lions rookies would be wise to take advantage of the culture in Detroit's locker room.