In a piece for “The Player’s Tribune” titled “Thank You, Arizona”, new Texans safety Tyrann Mathieu opened up about his time in the desert, how it changed his mentality, and why he chose Houston over several other offers around the league. The Honey Badger of course saw the potential of a healthy Texans defense to return to its dominant form - and J.J. Watt’s public recruitment certainly played a role as well - but in his own words what really sold Mathieu on returning to the Gulf was the City of Houston itself.
“After Katrina hit, my family lost everything and we were forced to live in a shelter in Northern Louisiana for two weeks. The conditions there were terrible. I was just 13 at the time, but even all these years later there are still a lot of things ingrained in my mind from that experience. We had to eat these beans that were as hard as bullets. I can still feel the crunch in my mouth when I think about it. I watched a baby fall off four bunk beds that were stacked on top of each other, crying the whole way down. There were all sorts of drugs, fights and destruction all around me. Just desperate, desperate people in a desperate situation.
Eventually, my family got moved into an apartment just outside of Houston. It honestly felt like a safe haven.
What I’ll never forget is just how much the people in Houston embraced us. Like I was in this strange place, we had lost everything and I get on this school bus where I don’t recognize a single face, and everybody was really cool to me. They told me that they were praying for my family. And for the first time since the storm, I felt a sense of relief.
So, looking back on that situation, it feels kind of gratifying to be able to return to Houston on my own terms in a completely different state of mind.”
“Houston welcomed me and my family with open arms when we needed it most. I’ve never forgotten that. It feels good to be back.”
Texas and Louisiana will always share a special connection as sister states on the Gulf. Both communities have helped each other through their darkest hours in Hurricanes Katrina and Harvey, and both know what it means to be shown just a little bit of compassion while livelihoods are being washed away. Just as the “Katrina kids” will always have a certain level of respect for Houston, so too will the survivors of Harvey always have a special place in their heart for the Cajun Navy. Now nearly thirteen years after Katrina, and almost one year after Harvey, Mathieu returns to the city that once took him in so that he can in turn take them to a Super Bowl.
Money, scheme fit, and pride always seem to be the biggest factors in where a free agent chooses to sign; this time, something is different. It wasn’t the contract or the coaches that sold the Honey Badger on Houston - it was the people themselves. One can only hope that the bond between Houston and Mathieu is further solidified this coming season with a shiny new Lombardi Trophy.