USA Football Alumni Spotlight: Tyrann Mathieu, New Orleans Saints

By Natasha Malone | Posted 3/16/2023

New Orleans native and homegrown superstar Tyrann Mathieu has been blessed with the opportunity to show-out and give back to the city that he holds near-and-dear to his heart while playing the game he loves. The Super Bowl LIV Champion and three-time All-Pro safety has had a long and successful career filled with many memories, including his time with the U.S. Tackle National Team.  

Mathieu was accompanied by future college talents such as Anthony Creecy (North Carolina State), Steele Divitto (Boston College), Quinton Dunbar (Florida), Jakhari Gore (LSU), Josh Huff (Oregon), Mike Hull (Penn State), Mark Myers (Pittsburgh) and Josh Reese (UCF) when he was part of the 2010 U.S. Tackle National Team, which competed in the USA vs The World game., a 17-0 victory for the USA.  The World team featured future NFL players Bjoern Werner and Jesse Williams. 

“The experience was great,” Mathieu said on his time on the U.S. Tackle National Team. “Having a chance to play with other notable high school athletes and being able to travel (to Fort Lauderdale), all that was great. I would probably say too, that whole week made me realize this, for most of our lives, we just thought football was played (only) in America. I didn’t realize up until that point that people all over the world love the game of football.”  

With the amount of high-end talent Mathieu was playing alongside, his best chance of getting playing time with the U.S. National Team was at safety. While it was not what he was accustomed to playing in high school, it was an opportunity that he did not shy away from. In fact, as it turned out, the safety role is where he ended up shining brightest.  
“When I joined the U.S. National Team, I was initially supposed to play cornerback, but there was so much talent on the team that I think I played safety and punt returner the whole game. I hadn’t played safety at all in high school, I was strictly a cornerback, so I think having the ability to be on the field with a lot of guys that have a lot of talent, it definitely makes you want to compete harder,” Mathieu said. “I realized that you may not be able to play this position, but there are other positions that you can play. That whole experience helped prepare me for LSU. When I went to LSU, I couldn’t get on the field as a cornerback, I had to play nickelback. That too, staying in a hotel, having meetings, having to be on time for things, it all kind of initiated towards the next step: going to college.”  

Before rising to fame on the collegiate and professional levels, Mathieu flew under the radar in the early years of his career at St. Augustine High School. 

Mathieu’s journey continued when the former three-star recruit decided to take his talents down the road to LSU, where he put together one of the most dominant all-around collegiate careers by a defensive player in college football history. Despite only spending two years with the Tigers, Mathieu’s dynamic playmaking ability cemented him in the LSU history books as one of the best to ever wear the purple and gold.  

In 2011, Mathieu earned many honors such as Southeastern Conference Defensive Player of the Year, a First-Team All-SEC selection and was a consensus All-American. Additionally, Mathieu won the Chuck Bednarik Award, given annually to the nation’s top defensive player.  

The Arizona Cardinals selected Mathieu in the third round (No. 69 overall) of the 2013 NFL Draft. In his rookie campaign, Mathieu recorded 68 tackles, two interceptions and a forced fumble in 13 games, earning NFL All-Rookie Team honors. After a five-year tenure in Arizona, Mathieu signed a brief one-year contract with the Houston Texans, then a three-year deal with the Kansas City Chiefs (2019-21), where he became a Super Bowl Champion.  

Now, the coveted defensive back has found himself where his dreams once began: New Orleans. In his first year with the Saints, Mathieu served as a key contributor, recording three interceptions and a career-high 91 tackles.  

Mathieu is grateful for every opportunity that has come his way thus far and strives to use his platform to provide others with similar opportunities.  

“I really think it’s a responsibility that I personally have, and everyone has to make it out of a tough environment. An environment where not a lot of people have the same opportunities that you have. To kind of be a light for these people, that’s a responsibility that I have,” Mathieu said. “It means a lot to me. But I love to be a part of the community. I love to give back. I just love to inspire people that are similar to me.”  

USA Football’s U.S. National Youth Tackle Teams have featured many exceptional athletes over the years, including NFL All-Pros Jordan Poyer (Bills), Jonathan Taylor (Colts) and Wyatt Teller (Browns) and quarterbacks Mac Jones (Patriots) and Kenny Pickett (Steelers). Mathieu’s name more than belongs among that group of distinguished alumni.