AVENTURA, Fla. — Chiefs safety Tyrann Mathieu knows how to get on the media’s good side.
After Monday’s “Opening Night” media extravaganza, Mathieu sent out a tweet that read, “Thank you to all the media. Wow you guys were awesome & so respectful. I appreciate all of you!”
This may be the first time an NFL player has ever thanked the media after a Super Bowl event. Mathieu said Tuesday he enjoyed the craziness of the event and the energy that came with it.
“You could feel it in the building,” Mathieu said. “Like I tweeted last night, I felt like the media was very respectful. I feel like a lot of times in a situation like that there can be tough questions that make it hard. I felt like the media made me feel comfortable, made the team feel comfortable.”
It is the latest sign of maturity in a player once known for his immaturity. Back in 2012, Mathieu’s football career was nearly derailed when LSU coach Les Miles kicked him off the team before his junior season for violating team rules, which reportedly was multiple failed drug tests. Back then, the “Honey Badger” was known as much for his antics as his play.
Now 27, Mathieu is one of the team leaders of the Chiefs, who signed him to a three-year, $42 million contract in the offseason. He is one of the biggest reasons the Kansas City defense has improved from 2018. He has shown his trademark versatility and been a positive influence on his teammates.
“He’s a natural born leader,” Chiefs quarterback Patrick Mahomes said. “That’s just who he is. He doesn’t have to do anything other than be himself. He goes out there every single day and just by his attitude and mindset, he’s leading other guys. I think that’s huge when you have guys like that around the team. Obviously, his play speaks for itself, but the way he’s able to every day just be great, it really does spread throughout the team.”
The Chiefs are Mathieu’s third team. The Cardinals drafted him in the third round in 2013. Two knee injuries slowed him down in Arizona, and the team cut him after the 2017 season. He played for the Texans for one season then landed with the Chiefs this year.
“I was very humbled being cut,” Mathieu said. “I’ve been fired from a team before, but I had never really been cut. To be cut, it was a reflective moment for me. It really humbled me and it gave me an opportunity to clean my plate and start fresh, to not focus on injuries, to not focus on what happened in Arizona, to just embrace this new journey I’m on. I was grateful for my opportunity in Houston. They allowed me to be myself.”
Sign up here for our exclusive Super Bowl 2020 Preview conference call.
Mathieu is now in the Super Bowl, and he may be a key on Sunday if the Chiefs are to stop the 49ers. Mathieu figures to be matched up with San Francisco tight end George Kittle.
“I feel like I’m battle-tested,” Mathieu said. “I’ve been through a lot of injuries, obviously. This is my third program in the league. I feel like I can be myself here. I feel like this team is every bit of who I am — young, energetic, full of life. I think this team gives me the opportunity to accept the platform that I’m on, to be able to reflect and realize how far I came.”
Mathieu prefers to go by a new nickname these days, “The Landlord” — as in the landlord of “Chiefs Kingdom,” the nickname for Chiefs fans. He still answers to “Honey Badger” but said he is in a different place now.
“I feel like I was in a different space in Arizona,” Mathieu said. “I was this young guy, trying to earn my stripes and earn my respect in this league, really trying to show people who I was off the field. I look at myself right now and I’m 100 percent at peace. I reflect on what I’ve been through but I know I’m strong enough to keep going. I think that’s the blessing. I know that I’m strong enough to finish.”
For more on Super Bowl 2020, listen to the latest episode of the “Gang’s All Here” podcast: