Honey Badger Legend Continues to Grow in Clutch Game-Winning Stop vs. Lions

Sean ODonnellContributor IIISeptember 15, 2013

Sep 15, 2013; Phoenix, AZ, USA; Detroit Lions wide receiver Nate Burleson (13) is taken down by Arizona Cardinals safety Tyrann Mathieu (32) in the first quarter during a game against the Arizona Cardinals at University of Phoenix Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Jennifer Hilderbrand-USA TODAY Sports
Jennifer Hilderbrand-USA TODAY S

The legend of Tyrann Mathieu—otherwise known as the "Honey Badger"was already evident even before he was selected by the Arizona Cardinals in the third round of the 2013 NFL draft. The LSU product saw his draft stock fall due to off-the-field issues that plagued him throughout his collegiate career.

Upon his selection by the Cardinals, draft expert Mike Mayock saw the writing on the wall:

There's a risk-reward scenario here. What a great opportunity for this young man. He's going to have a chance to go and use Patrick Peterson as a mentor. There's not a whole lot of cornerbacks there, and I smell opportunity for Tyrann Mathieu.

Mayock was right.

After being converted to safety, Mathieu dedicated himself to becoming a professional athlete and committing a high level of maturity to his craft.

Right away, Mathieu received glowing praise from All-Pro wide receiver Larry Fitzgerald during an interview with Pro Football Talk:

I absolutely love the kid. I love him. I mean he works his tail off every single day in practice, he comes to work, he studies plays so hard. He’s a tremendous kid in our locker room too. I mean he’s on time, he’s punctual, taking notes in meetings, just everything that you would expect out of a player of his caliber. Him and Patrick Peterson together it’s just really exciting. I’m so happy he’s on our team.

The work ethic that Fitzgerald was clearly on display during the Cardinals' Week 1 contest against the St. Louis Rams.

Tight end Jared Cook caught a Sam Bradford pass and began streaking down the middle of the field. Cook was able to get past the secondary and looked to be en route to an easy score. Just as Cook reached the 10-yard line, Mathieu closed in and punched the ball free, preventing the score.

It would have been easy for Mathieu to quit on the play, but he didn't. His actions clearly showed that he does care about his career, his team and his future. This marked the beginning of a tremendous turnaround.

Mathieu continued to solidify his legacy during a Week 2 contest against the Detroit Lions on Sunday.

With just over one minute remaining in the fourth quarter, the Lions found themselves facing a 4th-and-4 on their own 43-yard line. They needed to convert to keep any hope alive.

Mathieu lined up on the outside across from Nate Burleson, a veteran receiver with a three-inch height advantage.

The Honey Badger didn't flinch.

Burleson came off the line with authority—he obviously planned to use his size to his advantage and contacted Mathieu immediately, driving him backwards.

At this point, Burleson had a three-yard cushion to the inside of the rookie.

Unfazed, Mathieu absorbed the contact and righted himself quickly. He drove inward toward Burleson and delivered a sure tackle, shifting his weight in the direction of the line of scrimmage. Burleson was stopped one-yard shy of the first down marker.

Mathieu had successfully sealed the win for the Cardinals.

Over two career NFL games, Mathieu has now recorded 13 tackles, one forced fumble and one pass defensed. He has gained the admiration and respect of his teammates due to his dedication, work ethic and overall maturity. Not to mention his fantastic play.

The legend of the Honey Badger is just getting started.