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How Tyrann Mathieu matured into Chiefs leader

Photo by David Eulitt/Getty Images

Tyrann Mathieu is one of the most talented safeties in the NFL but his path to the top has been anything but easy. Despite personal and professional challenges, Mathieu has matured into a team leader that finds himself on the verge of consecutive Super Bowl titles with the Kansas City Chiefs.

Mathieu’s tough background plays a major role in the man he has become. From deaths of family and friends to an incarcerated father, and trouble of his own, he has faced his fair share of adversity. However, he doesn’t let it define him.

“I think a lot of people go through a lot of different things. You know I’m no different, Mathieu shared. “I’d probably say one of the biggest takeaways I can look back on and be proud of is all the people that have come into my life at different stages. I try not to necessarily focus on my struggles or my shortcomings. It’s mostly about being grateful and fortunate for second chances and the different people that truly embraced me for who I am.”

One of the people that embraced him is former Arizona Cardinals coach Bruce Arians who is now leading the Chiefs Super Bowl LV opponent, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.

Arians selected Tyrann Mathieu in the third round of the 2013 NFL Draft after he slipped from first round contention due to questions about his character due to missing the 2012 season at LSU for violating the substance abuse policy. Even with the questions surrounding Mathieu, his talent and leadership skills immediately stood out.

“When he was young and healthy, he was the most dynamic player that I’ve been around and a natural born leader,” Arians said. “We had Patrick Peterson and some other guys. We had some really good leaders on that team and he took over. He was vocal. Everywhere he’s been, I know Bill O’Brien raves about him, and Andy Reid raves about him. I’m more proud of the man he has become. He is a great football player but an even better man.”

Mathieu is also reuniting with another familiar face in Tampa Bay’s defensive coordinator Todd Bowles who was also on Arians’ staff in Arizona. They have a special relationship that has influenced them both.

“He’s made me a better coach because he came in a great player,” Bowles said. “He’s one of the smartest players I’ve ever seen play the game and I’ve been doing this a long time. Leadership skills are natural for him. He’s very intelligent as a ballplayer, he sees things on the field that no one else can see. You couple that with his leadership skills and you’ve got a great player. That’s what he is.”

At age 28, Tyrann Mathieu has matured leaps and bounds since his time with the Cardinals ended four years ago. He is a father, an eight-year NFL veteran, and a flourishing player in Kansas City. His influence has helped propel many of his teammates including fellow safety Juan Thornhill.  

“He’s a heck of a leader. He always motivates you when you’re down,” Thornhill said. “You can feel the spark from him all the time, like every single day, he will come in with a lot of energy. And if you don’t have the energy, he’s gonna make you have some. And definitely with my ACL [injury], he was a good guy to talk to since he’s been through it twice. He basically guided me throughout the whole process just telling me stay positive. Like I said before, he’s a great leader.”

A similar sentiment is shared by his current defensive backs coach Dave Merritt who crossed paths with him for several years but finally had a chance to work with him in Kansas City.  

“Ty’s an interesting young man. Here’s a young man who loves his family. He loves football,” Merritt said. “Our relationship from day one started flourishing because the young man wanted to grow as an expert in his field. The leader that he is today probably surpasses any guy I’ve ever coached in my 20 something years of coaching football, because of his passion for the game. So I’m excited to see what the young man has progressed to and where he’s going to go.”

As for Tyrann, his future success is dependent on two things: forgiveness and mental preparation.

“For me as a man, it’s all about forgiving people, and also forgiving yourself too,” Tyrann Mathieu told Double Take Sports. “I think that really allows you to continue to grow and to continue to accept responsibility for the things that you know you feel like you may have done wrong.”

“And then I mean as a player, just trying my best to grow mentally,” he continued. “In this league there’s a lot of different stresses and distractions that come with it but I think the players who are mentally prepared on and off the field, those guys that usually have great careers and great success.”

It’s that newfound maturity and freedom of letting go that has thrust him into a thriving leader and possibly a Super Bowl champion once again.