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New Orleans Saints safety Tyrann Mathieu enjoys successful homecoming

The three-time All-Pro safety looks to start another strong season with his hometown team

Check out photos of New Orleans Saints safety Tyrann Mathieu in action throughout the 2022 season.

By Grace Ostendorf

Honey Badgers are known for being strong, fearless and driven beyond their stature.

At first Tyrann Mathieu didn't take too much of a liking to the nickname. His coach gave it to him during his time at Louisiana State University after a video of a honey badger went viral online. Mathieu was confused, but told to go with it because it would allegedly one day make him money.

Undoubtedly, that prophecy's come true, as Mathieu enters his 11th season in the NFL and second with his hometown New Orleans Saints. But now the moniker has come to fruition in even more meaningful ways.

Mathieu has more than lived up to the name of Honey Badger. After a monumental sophomore season where he was named SEC Defensive Player of the Year and earned All-American recognition, Mathieu found himself dismissed from LSU's football team. Determined as ever, he declared for the NFL Draft after not playing for a year and that spring became a third round draft pick by the Cardinals. Mathieu renounced the nickname of Honey Badger, stating he wanted to be known simply as "Tyrann Mathieu."

The challenges continued, and in December of a standout rookie year, Mathieu tore his ACL and LCL, but by the end of the season, he was still named as a Pro Football Writers of America All-Rookie. Since then, Mathieu has been recognized as First-Team All-Pro three times,earned a Pro-Bowl bid three times and been a part of a Super Bowl winning team in 2019.

Feeling established in the league, in a post game interview that season, Mathieu stated that he was okay with the Honey Badger nickname. Even with the accomplishments and accolades, and the chance to return home to play for his hometown team, the Honey Badger is still driven as ever.

"I think I'm like the wise man in the room right now, going into my 11th year. But I still feel good, still feel healthy and still willing to put my hand in the pile and help us win," Mathieu said. "Professionally, I only see things getting much better for me as I continue to go."

Last year, Mathieu tallied a career-high 91 tackles with a team-leading 64 solo, while also leading the NFL's fifth-ranked total defense and second-ranked pass defense in interceptions. His physical leadership on the field has made an immediate impact on teammates.

"Just being next to him, watching him for a long time and learning from him at the same time has definitely been helping me. Just being out there with him, it's been great for me," said safety Marcus Maye, who also joined the Saints in 2022 free agency, six weeks before Mathieu.

The Honey Badger's presence and drive is not just felt on the field. In 2017, Mathieu founded his namesake foundation, the Tyrann Mathieu Foundation, and has been helping communities in the various cities he's played in ever since, but returning home has created an entirely new meaning for him.

"Years in the past it was always me kind of checking in for a weekend," said Mathieu. "With me living here full-time now, it obviously makes it easier. I can be more present with the kids. A lot of them are Saints fans so they're expecting a lot of big things from me personally and the team. It's just good to be around them."

New Orleans Saints safety Tyrann Mathieu hosted his sixth annual Heart of a Badger youth football skills camp for 300 local youth on Sunday, July 9, 2023. Former Saints Delvin Breaux and Patrick Robinson along with current cornerback Alontae Taylor assisted with the football drills throughout the day.

Some of the hallmark events include Tyrann's Turkeys, Heart of a Badger Youth Camp, Back to School Jamboree and Tyrann's Backpack Giveaway prior to each school year, when he provides backpacks full of school supplies for kids in the community.

"Being from New Orleans and growing up here, we don't have that same access that other (cities and) states may have," said Mathieu. "It was always kind of important for me to not just give kids football camps, but to try to help them in real life. I think education is a big part of it. Everyone can be a football player. You just try to give them a wide range of things that could possibly help them create a life for themselves."

With two more years left on his contract with the Saints, Mathieu is excited to continue giving back to his hometown and has plans to open up a youth community center that boasts a computer lab for kids to do homework and apply for important life steps like careers and college.

"You play the game because you care about your teammates and your coaches, and I think it's the same mindset off the field," Mathieu said in a video promoting his candidacy for the Walter Payton Man of the Year Award, after being named the Chiefs Man of the Year in 2021. "You do the things you do in the community because it's about the people. … If I could make [someone's] day or make a holiday, to me that's bigger than catching an interception in a ball game, just to see these families smile."

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