If you actively follow the players of the Kansas City Chiefs on social media, you probably saw the argument that quarterback Patrick Mahomes and wide receiver Mecole Hardman started about their home states a few weeks ago.
Star safety Tyrann Mathieu had to get his side of the argument in during his press conference on Friday — and showed off some extensive research.
“Louisiana’s a small state,” Mathieu began, referencing the amount of professional football players that come out of his home state. “So per capita, we’re actually second, I think right behind Hawaii. If we were a bigger state, we would put out a bunch of talent!”
The New Orleans native takes a lot of pride in his hometown and the state he was born in. You can imagine his excitement when he watched the Chiefs select players from three different Louisiana universities — including two Louisiana-born players. First-round LSU running back Clyde Edwards-Helaire shares the alma mater with Mathieu and grew up in Baton Rouge. His new teammate in the defensive secondary — fourth-round cornerback L’Jarius Sneed — grew up in Minden, Louisiana before attending Louisiana Tech.
“It’s always cool when you get to play with a guy that you know what kind of culture he comes from.” Mathieu pointed out. “I know he’s going to come in, he’s going to fit in, he’s going to do really well.”
Mathieu didn’t hesitate to reach out to his new teammates after they were drafted.
“I think I actually hit up all those boys that night,” Mathieu recalled. “Maybe I hit up BoPete [Keyes] the next day, but just excited to play with guys who love to play football... As a defensive player, that’s all you can ask for when your GM is drafting a player. Just get a guy that loves to play football, loves to tackle.”
There’s more in common with the rookie class than just a home state for Mathieu. Second-round pick linebacker Willie Gay Jr. is a talented player that earned a red flag during the draft process due to multiple incidents at Mississippi State. Some believe Gay went later than his talent indicates due to the off-field issues — the same thing that happened to Mathieu in the 2013 NFL draft.
“I’d say that had a big part in really driving me,” Mathieu answered after being asked about the things he went through in college. “Cause I knew a lot of the things that were being said about me just wasn’t who I am. And my teammates could probably say that, and I’m sure that’s why a lot of guys probably respect me to this day.”
The current all-pro defensive back fell all the way to the 69th overall selection. He went on to talk about the advice he gave to his newest wave of teammates.
“I always look back on it and say that I’m thankful I had great people around me and hope the same for these young kids,” Mathieu shared. “They’re gonna get a lot of money, things are going to be a lot different, and that’s what I tell them. To try their best to identify the good people in their life, and not the people that make you feel good. It’s the people that tell you the honest truth, and the quicker they can do that, the quicker they can transition to truly embracing the life of being a professional.”
The Honey Badger wasn’t done with sharing his wisdom for the young rookies. He went into his definition of leadership when prompted.
“There’s a certain way you practice, a certain way you play, there’s a certain way you interact with teammates, coaches, and even the media,” Mathieu remarked. “So I think leadership is not just you being really good at football, it’s you understanding that you’re good at football and that you can help other people be good at football.
He also touched on accountability and how a leader should practice holding himself accountable as much as he holds anyone else. Coincidentally, he led off his time with the media doing exactly that.
“I agree. We could’ve been so much better,” Mathieu declared when told that head coach Andy Reid made a comment about the defense not playing as well as they could in 2019. “Especially the production at the ball. I dropped eight interceptions by myself!”
As well as the defense played down the stretch of the Super Bowl run, the individual players have seemingly bought into the fact that their best performances are ahead of them.
“We can really get better. As a whole,” Mathieu admitted. “I know Frank Clark feels the same, I know Chris Jones feels the same. There’s a lot of little things we could’ve gotten better at, we’re not necessarily patting ourselves on the back, because we won the championship. I think we understand in order to do it again, or even to win in the future, we got to play better defensively.”
The recognition of this is important for the defense’s vocal leader. It’s easy to get complacent once the ultimate goal of winning a championship is accomplished. The Chiefs have a target on their back that every NFL team is aiming for. AFC West opponents used the 2020 draft to stock up on offensive talent in an attempt to match the Kansas City offense. Mathieu loved the concept.
“I think it’s going to be exciting,” Mathieu predicted. “I’m a football player, I love to play football. I love the competition, I love that part of it. I think anytime opposing teams can have exciting players on the other side, it’s going to lift us naturally. So I think we understand what style of play they’re going for.”
The soon-to-be 28-year old safety recognizes the talented draft classes in the division — but he was also a fan of the strategy general manager Brett Veach seemed to follow.
“I think us drafting those guys will really give us the ability to be able to adjust in a game with what we’re gonna be able to do. Anytime you can get guys with size and speed, and those guys like to tackle too. I think that they fit the mold with what Spags likes to do so I’m excited about them.”
Mathieu is known for his intelligence of football, a player that takes pride in watching film and understanding the game as a whole. His evaluation of players can be considered a trustworthy source. It sounds like the 2020 class got the Honey Badger seal of approval — and it comes down to one simple thing.
“I think the difference with these guys and the difference with me was, I loved football. If you can get the guy that loves football, he’ll find a way to really make it work, and that’s important.”