While the Tyrann Mathieu story plays out in front of our very eyes in real time, I feel like I'm standing in line already to see the movie version.
The Honey Badger has become an NFL household name and fan favorite. For many watching his story unfold, real life and Hollywood portrayal have perhaps overlapped. After all, sports are the greatest reality television show there is. Mathieu's past has been well documented, and so has his present. The latter is what's being celebrated, because of the
Badger's humility and professionalism. He doesn't hide from or excuse his past, yet hopes people see how he has been redeemed from it.
The truth is that the present is seen on a grander scale because of his past. Every accomplishment and accolade is magnified because of what he's overcome to this point.
Mathieu was named NFC defensive player of the month Thursday. He has numbers are like no other defensive back in the NFL. The Honey Badger has four interceptions, which leads the team. (Plus he's dropped at least two other passes that he should have intercepted.) He's also third on the team with a career-high 70 tackles. He is the only player in the NFL with at least 70 tackles and four picks.
I think it will be between him, Houston Texans defensive lineman J.J. Watt, Carolina Panthers linebacker Luke Kuechly, Panthers cornerback Josh Norman, and Cardinals cornerback Patrick Peterson for NFL Defensive Player of the Year. Watt has won the award two of the last three years.
The last defensive back to win the award was Steelers safety Troy Polamalu. Charles Woodson is the only cornerback since Deion Sanders to take home the honor. Stats matter when it comes to awards, which is why I think Mathieu has a better chance than Peterson, Norman, or a player like Denver's Von Miller (He's the leader of a great defense, but has only seven sacks this year compared to 14 a year ago.) Watt has 13½ sacks and is the single biggest reason why Houston might win its division. Whether Mathieu wins the award is a matter of opinion.
The matter of fact is that Ty is one incredible football player. Regardless of position, size or speed, he's one of the NFL's great difference-makers. Those guys are hard to find. Mathieu is a fantastic combination of talent and intelligence. In 14 years of calling Arizona Cardinals games, I've never seen a player that is, pound for pound, quite like him. At 23 years old, his story, while already lengthy and full of trials and successes, is really just beginning.