Posted: 11:30 a.m. Thursday, March 7, 2013
By Dylan DeSimone
With the 2013 NFL Draft approaching in April, teams are busy finalizing their boards. The San Francisco 49ers have been one of the more proficient teams in the draft, acquiring talented players and stockpiling picks.
One aspect that has separated the 49ers from the rest is how they evaluate character. They've done an exceptional job building a strong locker room, even though a lot of their players come from questionable backgrounds.
They have built a unit of strong-willed men that, at one time or another, have overcome adversity. When you put the film on, you see a team that fights till the end and I think that speaks to the resiliency of the individuals on this roster.
49ers National Scout Matt Malaspina confirmed the value of the interview process in a sit down with Scott Kegley last week. He spoke about character and understanding "what drives a player."
It's important in just getting a feel for their body language. A lot of the times this is our first exposure to them, not as athletes, but as people. Because you don't get a lot of chances in the fall and through some of the all-star games to really sit down and talk with them. So this is a good part for us to get a feel for the kid, to talk about his family, experiences - things you otherwise might not have known.
Finding the right fit character-wise is important to this ball club - it's part of their process. They want to find players that are compatible with the identity the new regime has instilled in this team.
In Jim Harbaugh's debut season with the 49ers in 2011, one of his primary goals was to establish an identity for this team. He executed this by means of motivational devices ad personal philosophies.
It didn't take long for the whole team to buy into what Harbaugh was selling. During the season, the 49ers drew inspiration from a viral video featuring a ravenous animal known as the "Honey Badger."
The team motto - "the honey badger don't care" - helped revive the spirit of this team.
It evoked a fearless attitude, as San Francisco started playing relentless, winning football. This was the persona they wanted to have on a game-by-game basis. "When it's hungry, it takes what it wants."
Meanwhile, in the SEC...
His ruthless, take-no-prisoners attitude was rare to see, especially in such a small package (5'9", 186 pounds). But Mathieu's intensely aggressive approach earned him the nickname, the Honey Badger. And even though he is trying to shed the nickname, it remains indicative of his playing style.
When it comes to his on-the-field identity, it aligns perfectly with what Harbaugh is trying to achieve in San Francisco.
Now, had Harbaugh heard of the Honey Badger? We can't confirm but considering Mathieu was tearing it up in 2010 while Harbaugh was at Stanford, there is a strong chance the head coach caught wind of his warpath. And between attending the combine and being well into the draft process, Harbaugh is well aware of who he is by now.
So, this begs the question: Is Tyrann Mathieu a Jim Harbaugh guy?