Jerome Mathis was a phenomenal track man while he was at Hampton. He took it to the gridiron too, setting the NCAA record with a gaudy 26.6 career kick return average and 6 TDs. During the combine, Mathis created quite a buzz posting the second best 40 time in history at 4.26. Still he waited to hear his named called until the 4th round of the 2005 draft, because he was considered just a return man from a small school.
The Texans are a very patient team and felt they could wait for Mathis to mature as a receiver. His speed was proven and he could be used on kick and punt returns at least. Mathis took the league by storm his rookie year. He posted 54 kick returns for 1542 yards (28.6 yard average) and 2 touchdowns, including a 99 yarder. His strong rookie campaign earned him Pro Bowl and special teams player of the year honors. During the Pro Bowl he fractured his foot, but it went undetected, forcing him to miss nearly the entire next season on IR. He came back to the squad for 2007 but after 3 games lost his entire year to injured reserve. He still managed to post 11 returns for 320 yards and a 84 yard TD.
Mathis was in a contract year with the Texans in 2007, and as a restricted free agent in 2008 the Texans had first right of refusal or tender. Late in 2007 he had a run in with the law- but whether or not that had anything to do with it, Houston cut him outright 9 days after being charged with a misdemeanor. He signed with the Redskins but was cut a few months later.
In 2009 he joined the Toronto Argonauts of the CFL and was on and off their roster for the season. He spent 2010 briefly with the UFL Hartford Colonials, before playing one final glorious year in the Arena Football League for the Pittsburgh Power. There he set a variety of Power records, retiring after the 2011 season.
NFL 17 Rec 6 Yds 80 Avg 13.3 Td 1 Lg 34t
KR 72 Yds 2154 Avg 28.5 Td 3 Lg 99t
PR 12 Yds 68 Avg 5.7 Td 0 Lg 19
Arena Rec 30 Yds 418 Avg Td 7 Lg 46t
Ret 31 Yds 688 Avg Td 1 Lg 49t