Tyrann Mathieu emerged as more than just a feel good story in 2015.
He became a Pro Bowler, a Defensive Player of the Year candidate and a team leader.
So, when his season was cut short in Week 15 to a torn ACL, the team’s mood understandably changed.
“It’s hard to say what he means because it’s one thing to say how good of a player he is on the field, but the inspirational that he is off the field, the amount of love that the guys have for this guy in the locker room,” Cardinals GM Steve Keim mused on the Big Red Rage on Arizona Sports 98.7 FM Thursday. “I can tell you that when we went into the locker room after we won the NFC West against the Philadelphia Eagles, and everybody’s putting on hats and t-shirts, it was a somber locker room.
“Everybody was deflated and they were deflated for a reason, because we were worried about Ty because we knew the type of player he’s become, the kind of person he’s become. That shows the deal of respect that they have for him.”
In 14 games, Mathieu collected 89 total tackles, 11 tackles for loss, a team-leading five interceptions, one sack, one forced fumble, three quarterback pressures and one quarterback hit.
He was anywhere and everywhere on the field, making his presence felt while making plays.
On a defense filled with stars and personalities, he shined the brightest.
The 23-year-old has come a long way since being kicked off of the LSU football team due to off the field transgressions, and his growth as both a player and a person has often led to him being described by head coach Bruce Arians as his favorite draft pick of all time.
That sentiment is one Keim does not necessarily disagree with, though he said he does not have a favorite player.
“But I can tell you there’s not a player that I’m more proud of than Tyrann Mathieu,” he said.
Now, the trick will be keeping Mathieu — who is rehabbing from his second torn ACL in three seasons — in Arizona for the long haul.
After the season ended Mathieu, who is set to enter the final year of his original rookie contract, was asked about the possibility of signing a contract extension to stay with the Cardinals.
“That’s very encouraging,” he said. “Obviously I love this team, I love our locker room, I love our coaching staff, upper management.
“I think this is the perfect place for me so I wouldn’t mind spending the rest of my life here.”
Mathieu added he is not so much concerned about what kind of money his new contract would bring, but there’s little doubt he would be rewarded handsomely for all he has done and what the team expects him to do in the future.
Whatever the contract ends up being worth, Keim said there’s no doubt signing Mathieu to an extension is one of the goals this offseason.
“It’s hard to say that that we’ll be able to get something done for sure, but we certainly have that goal in mind and there’s no doubt that this organization wants Tyrann Mathieu to be a fixture here for years.”