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New Orleans native Tyrann Mathieu fulfills dream of signing with Saints

'I think this is a place that I've always wanted to be'

The newest Saints free-agent roster addition Tyrann Mathieu arrives in New Orleans to sign his contract at the Ochsner Sports Performance Center on May 4, 2022.
The newest Saints free-agent roster addition Tyrann Mathieu arrives in New Orleans to sign his contract at the Ochsner Sports Performance Center on May 4, 2022.

Honey badgers' vision projects in black, grey and white.

But one dreams in black and gold.

Free agent safety Tyrann “Honey Badger” Mathieu, a New Orleans native and three-time All-Pro, agreed to terms Wednesday on a three-year deal to join his hometown NFL team. The nine-year veteran and Super Bowl LIV champion with Kansas City has 26 career interceptions, 13 in the last three seasons.

"It's most definitely a dream," Mathieu said. "I think having an opportunity to represent this team, to be a part of this locker room, I've always been a fan of the way the Saints play football. Just to have that opportunity means a lot to me. More than anything, I just want to take advantage of it and make the most of it.

"To be honest, I've lived a long life in this NFL thing. You can't always depict the future. When I realized the Saints wanted me, and obviously I wanted them, it was a situation that I knew I wasn't going to pass up. But I'm just more happy with the support that I have around me, family and friends, just all the people that have helped me get to this point in my life."

Mathieu, who stood out at St. Augustine High and was a Heisman Trophy finalist in 2011 when he played at LSU, was a third-round draft pick in 2013 who has played with Arizona, Houston and Kansas City.

But there was a strong pull for the 29-year-old (he turns 30 on May 13) to join the Saints once he became a free agent.

"I think coming into free agency, I've been fairly quiet," he said. "I've really been just kind of letting things play out. The Saints was really the only visit that I went on. I think from the get-go, I knew where I wanted to be. From there it was just all about things kind of coming together and aligning. I'm sure there were a lot of people praying for me, rooting for me. It just feels good to see it all kind of come together. I've kind of been manifesting this for a while now. A lot of former teammates know this, but just to have this opportunity means a lot to me.

"My family is extremely excited. Most of them are really proud of me, and to have this moment – to represent my family, my friends, to represent our state (and) everything we've been through and overcame, I'm sure it's going to lift a lot of people, especially my family and people that really know me. I'm just hoping I can continue to give people hope and inspire people, from my closest family to my furthest friends. I'm just hoping that I can come here and be all that I need to be.

"I was trying to keep quiet and keep my composure and not just say it out loud, but I think is a place that I've always wanted to be. And I think most people around me, they wanted that for me, too."

Mathieu fills a need for New Orleans at safety, after the team lost Malcolm Jenkins (retirement) and Marcus Williams (free agent) this offseason. The three-time Pro Bowler, who has played free and strong safety in his career, immediately becomes the most accomplished member of the secondary.

The newest Saints free-agent roster addition Tyrann Mathieu arrives in New Orleans to sign his contract at the Ochsner Sports Performance Center on May 4, 2022.

"I'm hoping that I can come in and be one of those guys that can really do anything Coach asks of him," Mathieu said. "That's always kind of been my motto, my standard, is to do whatever Coach asks me to do. I don't necessarily try to go out of my way to prove who I am, I just try my best to show up each and every day and be the person I know I can be. But it'll be fun, playing in this defense, being able to move around and play different things and being coached by great coaches, too.

"I think this defense, they just have an identity that every time they take the field they're going to hit everything that moves, and they're going to play team ball. I think that's why they've been a really successful unit over the past five years or so. So I'm just hoping that I can add to that. I'm hoping that I can come in and be a leader and make other guys' jobs easier."

The Saints will benefit from a mature Mathieu, who was dismissed from the LSU football program (2012), but has evolved into a beloved former Tiger who liberally donates time and resources to his communities in New Orleans and Baton Rouge.

"I think New Orleans has always been a great place, this has always been a great community," he said. "I think 10, 11 years ago when I was a 20-year-old kid, I think it was just important for me to kind of remove myself from certain things, certain environments so that I can work on myself, (and) get myself to a certain point to where I can come back home, and be responsible and be the person that I know I can be.

"It's been a great process. I've got great people that support me that I lean on. I think without those people and without my commitment to just try to do things the right way, I think this opportunity wouldn't even be in front of me. I'm just grateful to be here, to have this opportunity and to be able to get in the community and really inspire these kids to be better, to give them some hope. I think that's what it's ultimately all about."

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