KANSAS CITY, Mo. — Tyrann Mathieu was the biggest free agent signing of the Chiefs' offseason rebuild on defense — and now stands as perhaps the greatest free agent signing in franchise history.
Mathieu, who is also known as "Honey Badger" and "The Landlord," earned All-Pro honors in 2019. He leads Kansas City's defense with four interceptions, 12 passes defended and 63 solo tackles while also ranking third in total tackles (75).
More importantly, Mathieu has brought leadership and swagger, one of his favorite words, to a defense that has made a remarkable turnaround in the last two months.
Led by Mathieu and defensive end Frank Clark — the other centerpiece acquisition of the defensive makeover, picked up via trade with Seattle — the Chiefs' defense is viewed as a strength and not a liability entering the postseason, which kicks off for KC with an AFC Divisional Round matchup at 2:05 p.m. Sunday at Arrowhead Stadium.
If Kansas City keeps rolling and returns to the AFC Championship Game for a second consecutive season, it's a good bet Mathieu will be a big reason why. He also sat down with 41 Action News Sports Anchor Hayley Lewis for an exclusive interview about his time with Houston,
Asked about the message he'll have for the rest of the defense ahead of the game, Mathieu said, “Just mentality, focus, coming in with a certain mindset. I think really that’s what it is that’s key — mindset. Can you see yourself making plays Sunday? I feel like we’re prepared for the stage, so it’s all about going out there and really believing in that.”
Mathieu played for the Texans last season before signing a three-year deal with the Chiefs in the offseason. How much does his season with the Texans, his mammalian nickname and the upcoming playoff game.
Probably none. Maybe a few coverages here and there. I feel like what we did last year is not necessarily what they’re doing this year. They have a lot of different pieces as well. I think they’re going to come out and do what they do. It’s going to come down to, really, who wants it more.”
Here's our exclusive Q&A with Mathieu:
Hayley: When did you pick up the nickname Honey Badger?
Mathieu: It just kind of stuck. And then people just kept calling me that, so they still do to this day. I mean you had a different hairstyle back in college, right? Anything I do I have to say he's probably the honey badger because he has blond tips or something. Maybe because back in college I had the mohawk and the honey badger kind of has that streak of, you know, white hair.
Hayley: For Chiefs fans, it kind of seems like you've been here forever. Why do you think you've fit in so well in Kansas City and how have you been able to be a leader both in the locker room and on the field so quickly?
Mathieu: I'm not sure. I really just try to be myself. I know a lot of guys tend to gravitate to me for positive reasons and I just try to be like some of the guys that I came up under — guys like Patrick Peterson, Larry Fitzgerald — guys who perform well off the field but they were kind of able to get some guys right off the field as well so that's really what I try to bring.
Hayley: How does someone become All-Pro, but not get to the Pro Bowl?
Mathieu: I'm not sure. I think for me, I just try to go out each and every play and play my best ball. I love playing football and I love everything that comes with it, especially the challenges, but I try not to get too caught up into that. But I always try to go out there and make it clear that I'm one of the best players.
Hayley: What's it like to be able to practice against guys like Patrick Mahomes and Deshaun Watson (last season)?
Mathieu: For me, it was really the challenge. You know that each and every player really has the ability to beat you, so it's really about getting yourself in a mindset and I think anytime you are able to practice against somebody that's truly elite at what they do, I think it can only make you a better player.
Hayley: What is it going to be like to face your former teammates?
Mathieu: I'm excited. I see myself as a player that's truly competitive. I don't think I necessarily have any friends once I step inside those white lines. It's all about my teammates. It's all about the kind of energy I can bring to help my team. And, obviously playing with an edge and playing with a chip on your shoulder.
Hayley: What's the biggest challenge on Sunday?
Mathieu: Ultimately, they have weapons all over the field, but I think it's going to come down to if can we disrupt Deshawn Watson? Can we disturb him and limit his magic ability?He's a great player and you know he's going to do some great things on Sunday. We have to be able to withstand that.