Former Cardinals safety Mathieu reflects on his time in Arizona

Apr 5, 2018, 10:43 AM
Arizona Cardinals free safety Tyrann Mathieu (32) celebrates his second interception of the game ag...
Arizona Cardinals free safety Tyrann Mathieu (32) celebrates his second interception of the game against the San Francisco 49ers during the first half of an NFL football game, Sunday, Sept. 27, 2015, in Glendale, Ariz. (AP Photo/Ross D. Franklin)
(AP Photo/Ross D. Franklin)

Adversity has been no stranger in the life of former Arizona Cardinals safety Tyrann Mathieu. On Thursday morning he faced his latest challenge.

Saying goodbye.

After being released by the Cardinals in the offseason, Mathieu signed with the Houston Texans on March 16 to a one-year, $7 million deal.

Reflecting on his journey, Mathieu penned a letter to The Players’ Tribune, expressing gratitude for his time in Arizona.

A supernova in the making, Mathieu’s stock soared during his sophomore year at LSU, winning the Chuck Bednarik Award as the best defensive player in college football. His stardom was short-lived though, as he was dismissed from the program in 2012 for multiple violations of the university substance abuse policy.

There was no denying the talent possessed by Mathieu but off-field issues attributed to his name not being called in the 2013 NFL Draft until the Cardinals took a chance on him with pick No. 69.

It was brutal watching 15 other defensive backs get selected before me. Fifteen. One-five. I knew I had a lot of work to do in order to rebuild my reputation, but that showed me just how much work there was to be done. There was clearly a large gap between what NFL teams thought I could do and what I knew I could do.

Upon arriving in Arizona, Mathieu was taken under the wing of former safety Rashad Johnson. It was through Johnson’s tutelage that Mathieu became a student of the game and also started to improve his character.

He helped me realize that I could be a ruthless competitor on the football field, and an entirely different person off of it — that there was value in both. And as I came to discover, that was just the culture here. Up and down the roster there were guys like Fitz, Calais, Jerraud Powers and so many others who were willing to teach you how to be a professional.

In five years with the Cardinals, Mathieu quickly became one of the top young defensive players in the NFL. His breakout year came in 2015, earning First-Team All-Pro honors after recording a career-high five interceptions and 80 tackles.

Tears to his left ACL in 2013 and right ACL in 2015 cut two seasons short but didn’t keep Mathieu down as he led the league in snaps played last season.

Throughout his time with Arizona, Mathieu was a fan favorite. It was not uncommon to see fans sporting a single eye black or numerous blonde mohawks throughout the stands at University of Phoenix Stadium.

When I first got here, I was just a kid who loved football, but didn’t understand much else about life. Today, I’m a man who understands how much you can offer the world if you give a little of yourself. Arizona did that.

Thank you so much for accepting me and embracing me, not just as Honey Badger, but as Tyrann.

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