Outside of Patrick Mahomes, there may be no more impactful player on the Kansas City Chiefs roster than Tyrann Mathieu. Now a three-time All-Pro selection, including each of his last two seasons with the Chiefs, the 28-year-old’s career didn’t get off to the smoothest of starts.
However, his first NFL head coach, Bruce Arians, who will be leading the Tampa Bay Buccaneers on the opposing sideline on Super Bowl Sunday, apparently saw his potential from the very beginning.
“[He’s] my favorite draft choice of all time,” Arians told reporters on Wednesday, via Sam Mellinger of the Kansas City Star. “I just love him, his passion for football. But I am so proud of the man he has become. He’s a great football player but he’s a better man.”
Buccaneers offensive coordinator Byron Leftwich, who made his NFL coaching debut under Arians and alongside Mathieu with the Arizona Cardinals in 2017, also offered some high praise for the dynamic Chiefs safety this week.
“Being with Ty [Mathieu] in Arizona, I’ve got so much respect for the human being, before I even get to the football player,” Leftwich added on Monday. “You appreciate the leadership and the way that he carries himself on a football team. Then you [put] the tape on and you see the plays that I’ve watched him make in Arizona. We know what type of player Ty is.”
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Mathieu: Coach Bruce ‘Really Believed in Me’
While Mathieu was Arians’ third overall selection in his first year as the Cardinals head coach in 2013, he is also arguably his best. When asked about how Arians’ comments made him feel on Wednesday, Mathieu credited the veteran coach as being “one of the first people in the NFL who really believed in me.”
“Me and coach Bruce, we’ve got a great relationship,” Mathieu said, via NBC Sports’ Pro Football Talk. “Like I said, he’s one of the first people in the NFL who really believed in me and the things that I can do on a football field and gave me a chance to kind of showcase that. So anytime he tells me I’m his favorite draft pick, it always makes me smile. This is a guy that coached Andrew Luck and Peyton Manning and now he’s coaching Tom Brady. And somehow, I’m still one of his favorite players. It’s just a good feeling.”
Mathieu Snagged 1 of 2 Tom Brady Interceptions in Week 12
On Sunday, Mathieu and company will again have their hands full trying to slow down Tampa Bay’s No. 2 ranked passing offense, which has averaged 276.3 aerial yards in its three roads wins this postseason.
When the two clubs met back in Week 12, “The Landlord” played a crucial role in preserving the Chiefs’ 27-24 win, including notching one of his career-high six interceptions on Tom Brady late in the third quarter.
On Monday, the 43-year-old six-time Super Bowl champion called Mathieu “one of those incredibly talented players that can really do it all” while listing off just about every single thing he can do.
This weekend will mark just the second meeting between Arians and Mathieu as on-field opponents. A second win for the latter would also mean a second consecutive Lombardi Trophy on an already impressive résumé.
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Chris Licata is an NFL contributor covering the Kansas City Chiefs from enemy territory in Denver, Colorado. Follow him on Twitter @Chris__Licata or join the Heavy on Chiefs Facebook community for the latest out of Chiefs Kingdom!