Ever the skeptic of newfound media darlings, I didn’t buy into Tyrann Mathieu’s Honey Badger hype during his big breakout season at LSU in 2011. I respected the tenacity and his play style, sure, but from what I watched that year, it seemed like a lot of “right place, right time, ball bouncing into his lap” moments. The whole showboat pass incomplete motion look-at-me routine after every deflection or tackle wore thin quick as well.
His less than impactful showing in an embarrassing blowout loss to Alabama in the national championship game gave that perception some vindication. So that summer, I wrote an article for Bleacher Report where I said exactly what I felt at the time, Mississippi State’s Johnthan Banks was the SEC’s best corner, not Mathieu.
Tyrann didn’t seem to appreciate that opinion.
The next day, Mathieu went on one of his more infamous Twitter rants/tirades/meltdowns, which the man who “never bites his tongue” of course completely deleted afterwards.
It was captured by SBNation here.
These were the thoughts on the mind of Mathieu that day.
I AM THE BEST DEFENSIVE PLAYER IN COLLEGE FOOTBALL! bottom line as humble as i can say it! Stop comparing me, i am a diffrent breed!
IMMA SHOCK THE WORLD AGAIN THIS YEAR! WRITE IT DOWN, I SAID IT TODAY JULY 13, 2012!
& IM second to no one i play football it doesn’t matter what position i line up at i truly Ball HARD! ask them other players can they do it
how about all you sports writers label me overrated till you label me the greatest!is that a deal? Cool!
i never bite my tongue,….. its called freedom of speech
y’all better get y’all mind right, i will truly be legend before you write your next article on me!
but then again these writers ain’t down for you!!
YEAH IM SHORT (5’9) 186! gave up 4 catches in the NATIONAL championship GAME! anything else to lag on Haters?????? i’ll wait
It was big talk from the undersized DB. I mean, god forbid somebody wrote an honest opinion article that wasn’t just another ball washing piece about how he was reinventing defense or whatever it was most in the media were regurgitating at the time.
I’ll hand it to him, though, he sure shut me up. He went out in 2012 and had a truly legendary seaso…oh wait, that’s not right at all. Instead, he decided to get high on synthetic marijuana, get arrested, and get booted from the team. Then all of his fanboys in the media instantly turned on him and completely shunned him.
That’s the point where Mathieu could have joined the ranks of so many other college football stars who burned out just as fast as they shined and faded into obscurity before ever even making it to the big time.
But he didn’t.
He worked his ass off to right his wrongs, mature and make the most of what in its infancy looked to be the makings of a potentially promising football career.
I remember sitting with a friend of mine at Bleacher Report’s 2013 NFL draft party, watching night two of the draft unfold. I was surprised, even given his previous transgressions that Round 2 came and went without Tyrann’s name being called. My friend and I bantered for a bit about how neat it would be if Arizona picked him and had Patrick Peterson be his mentor.
Then pick 69 came, and the Cardinals made it happen.
Since that night, Mathieu has shown his gratitude for the franchise’s faith in him by doing what he does best: laying it all out on the field with reckless abandon and dedicating every inch of his being towards being the best player he can be.
Instead of hiding from them, he’s embraced the humbling events of his past, let them mold him and fuel his fury, and chosen to go down the path of redemption. He’s sacrificed his body — he’s torn up ligaments in both of his knees in the past three years— and given his all to a team that was willing to shepard him in a desperate time of need.
Now, the Cardinals have decided to compensate him handsomely for his efforts by signing him to a five-year, $62.5-million deal.
When talking about teams signing homegrown stars to big long-term deals, there’s always that question of how much is it a reward for past accomplishments, and how much is it a true investment and expectation for the future?
In Mathieu’s case, it’s clear that the franchise sees the 24-year-old corner/safety hybrid as a key cornerstone of the franchise and an important defensive leader of the future.
Admittedly, I still think he’s a bit of a braggart, and a bit overly sensitive towards criticism sometimes. But looking at it from the perspective I do now, instead of the one I did when I wrote that Banks>Mathieu article, I get it.
He wears that chip on his shoulder and he wears it proudly. As much as he’s wanted to shake that image, Mathieu’s still the Honey Badger at heart. His world is one where fear doesn’t exist, and that’s what makes him such a dynamic must-watch playmaker.
You want to write a book about athletes who overcome adversity and find a way to make something of themselves, this is the guy. The cliff notes version is wild enough: father’s in jail for murder, raised by relatives, slighted by recruiting services and big-name programs for being too small, yet still breaks out and becomes a national star in college football’s premier powerhouse conference, then gets involved with drugs, gets kicked off the team, gets a shot to redeem himself and finally becomes a highly paid star in the NFL.
Looking back at that season at LSU, I guess I was wrong about that whole “right place, right time” thing. When you put in the work to put yourself in an advantageous spot, you deserve to receive the reward for your efforts and that’s exactly what Tyrann’s done.