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Mathieu’s life story told in ‘The Rebirth of Tyrann Mathieu’

Injured Arizona Cardinals free safety Tyrann Mathieu watches his teammates prior to an NFL football game against the Green Bay Packers, Sunday, Dec. 27, 2015, in Glendale, Ariz. (AP Photo/Rick Scuteri)

In a flurry of excitement that has followed Tyrann Mathieu’s contract extension, one story of a different kind is being told, too: Mathieu’s life story.

In an article by Paul Solotaroff in Men’s Journal, the Arizona Cardinals defensive back is exposed in a tell-all piece that recounts his daily life, childhood, injuries, NFL career and more. It’s a fascinating story, one that gives insight into someone who is otherwise known as a free safety. 

Mathieu is first painted as a “warrior,” one who survived – literally – against the odds. He has a tattoo on his leg that pays tribute to his loved ones that passed away.

Look there, at the ink below his right knee: 22 crosses carved in dark green, a portable shrine to the people he’s lost and the talismanic marks they left on him. “I hear their voices always: ‘Keep going, keep going,’ ” Mathieu says. “It’s like they passed their strength to me when they died.”

The piece recounts his rocky childhood, in which he was abandoned by his biological mother. He instead lived with his grandmother, Marie Spellman-Mathieu, then was adopted at age 12 by his Uncle Tyrone.

The week before I met him, Mathieu buried Marie at a massive funeral service in New Orleans. (She succumbed at 75, after a number of strokes.) He was the only one who spoke, taking the pulpit for 30 minutes to consecrate the things she’d tried to teach him. “With her, it was always about ‘we,’ not ‘me,’ ” he said, “and that we’re put on Earth to help out other people.” Those used to be foggy concepts for a neglected child who burned to be part of anything.

Then, the Louisiana native lived through Hurricane Katrina, which took “everything [the family] owned.”

They fled to Humble, Texas, for six months, then lived in a hotel while Tyrone gutted the house and rebuilt it. They were homeless almost a year, and the chaos was more than Tyrann’s nerves could bear. Plagued by mood upheavals and sleep disruptions, he began having nightmares about jumping off bridges or being murdered by people he knew.

His dismissal from LSU for a drug violation, the Cardinals’ risky acquisition of the former college star and the injury-ridden start to Mathieu’s NFL career are all explained and recounted in the biographical story.

Today, Mathieu lives a lifestyle that includes both stardom and peacefulness, both money and a not-so-gluttonous diet and health regimen.

Gone is all the greasy junk he grew up eating, replaced by Buddha bowls and blueberry smoothies. His regimen: no sugar, no dairy, no soy, no fried food. Just yoga, reflection, solitude, and prayer.

It finishes by noting that Mathieu has finally found stability in Arizona. And lastly, Tyrann’s long-term goal:

“I want them to say, ‘Life kept knocking him on his butt, and he kept getting up and kicking ass.'”

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