The Kansas City Chiefs are a team loaded with playmakers. Whether it’s quarterback Patrick Mahomes, tight end Travis Kelce, or wide receiver Tyreek Hill, they’ve got plenty of weapons to throw at opposing defenses. But that’s not the only part of the team that’s explosive: they also have plenty of capable hands-on defenders as well. One of those stars is Tyrann Mathieu, the safety who has had quite an interesting career in both college football and the NFL.
At many points during Mathieu’s career, it’s appeared as though he may not be able to fulfill his great potential. But Mathieu has been able to turn it around now in Kansas City. How did he do it? Through hard work, dedication, and another unlikely source: a mindfulness coach and yogi.
Tyrann Mathieu’s off-field struggles
Mathieu’s immense talent on the defensive side of the ball has never been called into question. What was less certain was his commitment to the game.
As a standout safety for LSU in college, Mathieu was one of the best players in the country. Earning the nickname “The Honey Badger,” he was an absolute terror on the field. According to The Sporting News, Mathieu recorded 57 tackles and 4.5 sacks as a freshman in 2010.
LSU kicked Mathieu off the team, however, in 2012 after he failed more than one drug test. He attempted to stage a comeback but was arrested in October for marijuana possession. That essentially ended his college career, leaving his draft status up in the air. Nevertheless, he continued to prepare for a pro career.
The Arizona Cardinals drafted Mathieu in the 2013 NFL Draft, though he went much later than a player of his caliber probably should have. He suffered ACL and LCL injuries late into his rookie season and then injured his thumb during his sophomore campaign.
He then tore his ACL in his third year. A 2016 shoulder injury led some to believe that the Honey Badger may have been permanently snakebitten, but he was able to find his own personal light at the end of the tunnel.
A career and life turn around
When Tyrann Mathieu went to the Arizona Cardinals in 2013, he was far from a sure thing to become an NFL star. His checkered collegiate history led to multiple red flags.
That all changed when he met Donny Starkins, aka Donny the Yogi. According to a piece on Mathieu in Sports Illustrated, Starkins encouraged Mathieu to practice the art of self-love. He’d do that in several ways, including:
- Examining his own personal baggage through meditation and yoga
- Letting go of that baggage
- Releasing the concept that football is the only thing that gave him value
- Focusing on the idea that “happiness is an inside job,” meaning Mathieu would have to find peace and tranquility from within
Though this wasn’t the only turning point of Mathieu’s career — he suffered several injury setbacks — it did put him on the right path. He got himself into therapy, confronted his demons, and was able to deal with his issues in a healthy way.
How Tyrann Mathieu completed his comeback
Before the 2019-2020 season, Mathieu signed a three-year deal with the Chiefs. According to 247Sports, he played in every Chiefs game in 2019. He also helped lead the Chiefs to a victory in the Super Bowl, scoring six tackles (including four solo) in their win over the San Francisco 49ers. This season he’ll attempt to lead them to a successful defense of their title.
Mathieu had big issues to contend with heading into the league. Once he did land a job, he struggled to stay healthy. It seems as if his newfound mindfulness has made him more mentally healthy, an often overlooked component of wellness both in sports and society as a whole. Mathieu’s approach likely hasn’t just made him a better player, but a more well-rounded person.