Tyrann Mathieu spent part of the last week around LSU’s football program. He observed meetings, watched practice and spoke to the team one day, sharing lessons he learned on his way to becoming a Super Bowl winner after his college career ended with a dismissal.
“We were able to share his story with our team, and it came from him,” coach Brian Kelly said. “It wasn't from the head coach. That resonates.”
Mathieu also visited the New Orleans Saints as he looks for his next team in free agency, and near the end of his weeklong trip, Mathieu discussed his life Tuesday night inside the Pete Maravich Assembly Center for a lecture series arranged by Delta Gamma.
Mathieu met with reporters beforehand, touching on his meeting with the Saints, his impressions of Kelly’s program and why he wants to become a coach when his playing career ends.
The interview has been edited for length and clarity.
Q: You visited the Saints today. What do you like about that situation, and what do you want out of your next team?
First and foremost, it's a great opportunity with Dennis Allen stepping into the lead position. He's a great defensive mind. I have a lot of respect for Mrs. Benson and the kind of things she does throughout the community. It's a team I grew up watching. Any time I get to play in front of family and friends, it obviously gives me more energy. It would be a great opportunity if that was to come.
Q: Some of the Saints players have tried to recruit you on Twitter. What are your thoughts on playing with them?
I have a great relationship with Cam Jordan, Marshon Lattimore. The list goes on and on. Any time I see the Saints play defense, I always tap myself on the shoulder and say, 'Hey, I could probably roll with those guys.'
Those guys have done a great thing. The last couple years, they've been like top 5 in defense. I don't think they really need me, but it would be good to go back home and help them win.
Q: As you go through free agency, how do you handle this process?
This is my third time in free agency, unfortunately. This time around, it's not about being the highest-paid safety. It's not about breaking news or anything like that. I want my family to be comfortable. I think I've worked hard enough and long enough in this league to be able to have that. I want to play for a team that has a chance to win a championship, but outside of that, I want my kids and my family to be happy and be safe.
Q: You spent time last week around LSU’s football team. What were your impressions of Brian Kelly and his program?
I like what he's doing. I feel like he's a coach that has a plan. He has a vision, and I think he believes in his process. He has a great staff, too. Obviously I came from Kansas City with (defensive coordinator Matt) House. I know what kind of teacher he is. I think Brian Kelly is the perfect man at the right time.
Q: You sat in on meetings, watched practices and gave a speech. Was there anything else?
I had a great meeting with Coach House and talked to Brian Kelly two or three times for a long period of time, just trying to get his message right. He gave me the opportunity to speak in front of his team. I didn't want to say anything that went against the things he's been trying to teach these guys the last three or four weeks.
For me, it was important to sit down with him and get a feel for who he was and what he wants the kids to be. A lot of things he talks about are things I feel like are my traits.
Q: What kind of things?
Attention to detail, being early for meetings, showing up to practice early, staying late. Doing whatever it takes to get better. Making that commitment obvious to everybody.
Q: You’ve said you want to coach someday. What about coaching intrigues you?
I saw what coaching did for me. Having great coaches, having coaches that challenged me, having coaches that really pushed me to the next level, it helped me transform my life. From my high school coach to Andy Reid in Kansas City, I've had a good deal of great fortune, especially when it comes to coaches.
I want to be like some of the men that reached me, that inspired me, that told me and showed me how to play the game the right way. I do think I can do that for the next person.
Q: Did the last week around LSU give you a taste of that?
Most definitely. Especially with these younger guys, a lot of those guys have watched me for a while now. I want to be able to share the right message with them. I want to be able to give them some real food they can really think about once they leave and go home.
At the end of the day, I want to be somebody who helped me, somebody that inspired me. I've been playing football since I was 5, so a bunch of those men are coaches.
Q: Was this the most time you've had around LSU since you left?
Yeah. Me and (former LSU cornerback Patrick Peterson) came back a couple years ago for two or three days. This has been the most time. It feels good. It feels like home.