We’ll never know exactly how close Tyrann Mathieu came to going down in football history as the defensive backfield’s version of Maurice Clarett. All that matters now is that Mathieu got his life in order and has blossomed into one of the best players in the NFL.
Not too long ago, Mathieu was, like Clarett, a former Heisman Trophy candidate who’d found himself forced out of college football and on the verge of blowing his opportunity at a professional football career. After getting kicked off the team at LSU and missing what would have been his junior season, Mathieu decided to go pro and was the most polarizing player on the 2013 NFL Draft board.
The Arizona Cardinals took a chance on Mathieu in the third round (69th pick overall), and have since been rewarded with one of the top defensive backs in the game making major contributions to one of the best defenses in the league.
For that, Mathieu was recently recognized by his peers with the No. 28 spot on the NFL Network’s ranking of the top 100 players for 2016.
Mathieu is listed as a free safety, but “Honey Badger” can pretty much play every position in the secondary at a high level. This past season he posted 89 tackles, five interceptions, one sack and one forced fumble before a torn ACL in Week 15 ended his season and kept him from playing for Arizona in the playoffs.
Despite the injury (his second ACL tear), despite the fact that he’s only 5-foot-9, and despite the fact that his controversial past isn’t exactly a long way into the past, Mathieu is expected to sign a contract extension soon that will make him one of the highest-paid defensive players in the NFL. That’s how good he is.
You can watch the NFL Network segment on Mathieu HERE, and check out a highlight reel below: