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Tyrann Mathieu's FBI -- football intelligence -- registers with younger players

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Who are some of the top NFL free-agent signings of the past five years? (2:12)

Rick Smith, Keyshawn Johnson and Adam Schefter look back on marquee free-agent signings over the past five years, including Tyrann Mathieu to the Chiefs. (2:12)

KANSAS CITY, Mo. -- Tyrann Mathieu was hardly an unknown before he joined the Kansas City Chiefs and helped lead the team to a win in Super Bowl LIV.

But if the recent NFL scouting combine is any indication, winning has raised Mathieu's profile. At least a dozen defensive draft prospects said during media interviews that they try to model their games after Mathieu's or otherwise look up to the Chiefs' defensive back.

"Tyrann Mathieu," Clemson defensive back K'Von Wallace said when asked which NFL player he compares himself to. "His versatility, instincts, his tenacity to play the game, his physicality, his brains. He's always pointing at his head, talking about, you know, how smart he is. I feel like I got a high FBI --football intelligence -- and with that just the way he just plays the game with passion and love and his teammates love him. He's a captain. He's a leader in that locker room. I definitely want to model my game after him."

Wallace's comments are representative of those from the larger group. Mathieu's playmaking ability, energy and football intelligence were enough in the past to get him the occasional mention as a role model from younger players.

After Mathieu was named first-team All-Pro for the second time in his seven-year NFL career and his team won Super Bowl LIV, he's become an icon.

"The first name that comes to mind would be Tyrann Mathieu because he bounces around," Clemson linebacker Isaiah Simmons said. "He can play anywhere in the back seven."

The attention from the next generation of NFL defensive players hasn't gone unnoticed by Mathieu.

"Every team I've played on, everybody wants to try to act like me or emulate my attitude or energy level," Mathieu said. "It's a good feeling to have guys that are far younger than me watching me and are really studying me. I think it speaks volumes really to the people around me. I've been able to just believe in myself and continue to go forward. If you ask a lot of people, a lot of guys would probably raise their hands when it comes to whether or not they look up to me. I'm in such a great position to be a role model not only for the youth but my peers as well.

"It's humbling because I'm not perfect. I'm not the prototypical athlete. I'm not the fastest. I'm not the biggest. I'm not the strongest. I won't even grade well, right? What a lot of those guys respect is that I play for much more than myself. Every team I've been on, people have been able to see that. I play for the guy next to me more so than myself. I think a lot of young guys, they like that."

Mathieu plays the type of game that's easy to appreciate. At 5-9 and 190 pounds, he's undersized but hasn't let that diminish his production. The Chiefs used him in a variety of roles and he excelled at all of them. He was excellent in slot coverage, effective when he rushed the quarterback and led the Chiefs in interceptions with four.

"He gets moved around a lot, he covers man-to-man," Michigan safety Josh Metellus said. "But they put him in the box, they put him deep safety and I feel like I can do the same thing as he does so I really [model] my game after his. I mimic my game after his."

Southern Illinois defensive back Jeremy Chinn said, "You see him all over the field, playing safety, playing slot corner, playing outside corner, linebacker at times. He blitzes. My past years, I did a lot of those things as well as far as blitzing, playing down in the box, playing up high, guarding the slot. And also just his playmaking ability, his natural instincts. I feel like I have that as well."

Mathieu has overcome a lot to reach this level. He was thrown off his college team at LSU for violating the school's substance abuse policy for athletes. He lasted until the third round of the 2013 draft when he was selected by the Arizona Cardinals because he was viewed as a risky pick.

But he's been a locker room leader at previous NFL stops in Arizona and Houston as well as Kansas City. He's accomplished much in his community endeavors.

"I feel like I'm on a bigger mission," he said. "It's not necessarily about myself. I feel like I'm inspiring a lot of people. I think football is really small. It's obviously a platform for me. I think a lot of people look up to me just because of some of the adversity I've been able to overcome."

That part won a vote from Mathieu from some combine participants.

"I don't know about model my game, but the guy I looked up to [is] Tyrann Mathieu," LSU safety Grant Delpit said. "All that he's been through, all that he preaches to us -- he's really the model role model. He did everything right after everything that he's been through in his life. He's a Super Bowl champ now, so I sit down and talk with him a lot. He spits nothing but wisdom."