Tyrann Mathieu has had an interesting football career to say the least. In college, he had great potential only to see it nearly ruined due to off-field issues. He got to the NFL and battled more adversity before becoming an elite player who can now call himself a Super Bowl champion.
There’s little doubt as to Mathieu’s greatness now, but there was a time when his future was very much in doubt. That means that young NFL players could likely learn a lot from him. So what advice does Mathieu have for players who may be in a position similar to him?
The early mistakes and misfortunes of Tyrann Mathieu
At LSU, Mathieu earned the nickname of “Honey Badger” for his tenacious play. He found himself in regular trouble due to his marijuana use. Finally, Tigers coach Les Miles kicked him off the team. He was eventually drafted by the Arizona Cardinals much later than a player of his caliber would have been drafted without the off-field issues.
Mathieu never could quite get over the hump to elite player status in Arizona. He played well but suffered injuries. Finally, he landed in Kansas City. That’s where everything clicked into place for the talented safety. Last season he played a key role in the Chiefs‘ Super Bowl win over the 49ers. Not only is he playing well, but he’s taken much better care of his own mental health. The result is a talented but humbled man who now sounds wise beyond his years.
The surprising advice Tyrann Mathieu is giving NFL players
In an interview with GQ, Mathieu touched on a variety of topics; everything from his early career struggles to the man and player he’s become today. As someone who’s made his fair share of mistakes, a young NFL player could learn a lot from the 28-year-old. Mathieu’s advice to players younger than him is simple: be yourself.
“I tell them this is all a game, and if you’re not yourself, and if you’re not thinking for yourself, you can not play the game. You won’t have a very long career. You’ll be easily influenced. You won’t be able to be coached by multiple people. You’ll have this ego and it’ll get in the way.”
At first blush, Mathieu’s advice may sound selfish and somewhat egotistical. But what he’s preaching is to be coachable and drop all pretense of ego. This application of individualism is key to helping a player think critically. When they do that, they can listen to more coaches and fellow players and are more likely to develop. Being able to take in multiple perspectives and discern which ones are worth listening to is critical.
Why Mathieu wants players to avoid getting ‘caught in the herd’
Mathieu sees himself as different from many players because he truly loves the game. He didn’t happen into it simply because he was “fast and big and strong.” Mathieu added that players need to understand who they really are, and what they want out of the game, to truly get the most out of it.
“But do you really know who you are, or are you just caught in the herd? Don’t ever let the game or outside expectations shrink you. We have to continue to grow as people.”
It goes beyond the football field. Mathieu has taken a holistic, healthier approach to his mental and physical well-being, and it’s clearly paying off. Say what you want about Mathieu, but his words are genuine and based on his lived experience. Many players would do well to heed his caution and follow his lead.