SAN JOSE, Calif. —** The Broncos and Evan Mathis seemed like they would be a perfect match. Facing a realistic possibility in preseason that the team's offensive line would feature at least three first-year or rookie starters following Ryan Clady's season-ending ACL tear in OTAs, the Broncos yearned for a talented veteran to bolster the left side of the offensive line.
A possible answer to their search was Mathis, who had been cut by the Eagles in June, but Mathis was not about to jump to a quick decision. The Broncos' spending ability limited them to make an offer that wouldn't be as substantial as another team, but Denver boasted a roster loaded with talent, which clearly played heavily into his decision.
Standing on the floor of SAP Arena at Super Bowl 50 Opening Night five months after signing with the Broncos on August 25, Mathis is more than content with the decision he made.
"This is exactly why I'm here," Mathis said. "I have zero regrets. I couldn't be happier."
Mathis has been a key part of the Broncos' run blocking and after recovering from a nagging ankle injury, returned to give Denver a fully healthy offensive line in time for a strong postseason run. And on a team that has ground out close, hard-fought and emotional victories, Mathis has found the trip all the more memorable.
"I love our tight-knit our team is," Mathis said. "We're all in this for each other. We've all got each other's backs. So when you've got a bunch of guys who are on the same mission, it helps you keep that focus."
With 10 NFL seasons to Mathis' name, nine for left tackle Ryan Harris and eight for tackle Tyler Polumbus, the Broncos have a trio of veteran linemen making their first Super Bowl appearances, and that just adds fuel to their fire.
"Evan and I, Tyler and I — we have great appreciation of being here and it's fun to have those guys to be able to share our thoughts together about that and about being here," Harris said.
One additional part to Mathis' story at this stage is that the Broncos' Super Bowl opponent is the team that drafted him but waived him after three seasons. But his history with the Panthers isn't factoring into his mindset whatsoever.
"If I would sit there and think about that too much, it would just be another distraction," he said. "[There are] a lot of distractions, but the main thing is eliminating all of those and staying focused on something that all of us have been dreaming to do our entire lives."