INDIANAPOLIS — An authentic set of battle armor greeted visitors to Robert Mathis' locker Wednesday at the Indiana Farm Bureau Football Center.
The black-and-gold helmet and chest plate look more at home in one of the "300" movies, but they are the proud possessions of the NFL's reigning sacks champion thanks to the generosity of Daniel Adongo and Bjoern Werner.
"It caught me off guard because I've never seen one in real life, like a real one," Mathis said of his reaction when the second-year linebackers presented him with his gift. "It's the real deal, and I was humbled by it."
Werner, the Indianapolis Colts' 2013 first-round pick, later explained the armor was meant as a symbol of Mathis' leadership. It was given in appreciation for the wisdom provided by the elder statesman last season.
"They're humble guys," Mathis said. "They're developing. They just came in asking, wanting to learn a couple things. It's kind of a big brother, little brother type of deal."
Werner and Adongo's ability to put that knowledge to use could help determine whether the Colts reach their ultimate goal in 2014 — a Super Bowl XLIX victory at Glendale, Ariz., in February.
Mathis will be leading a defensive unit with several new faces this fall. Inside linebacker D'Qwell Jackson was signed after being cut by Cleveland, and defensive lineman Arthur Jones was imported as a free agent from Baltimore.
There also will be a new starter at safety, after Antoine Bethea signed with San Francisco. The two-time Pro Bowl selection started every game for Indianapolis over the past six seasons.
Mathis instinctively bowed his head when discussing Bethea's departure.
"He's a guy that clocks in every day, never misses a game, never misses a practice," Mathis said. "It's tough. You can't replace him, but somebody has to step up. That's the best you can hope for."