Felix McKnight Trophy Winner — Defensive Back Tyrann Mathieu
Peterson was right.
After recording an interception, seven tackles—including a sack—and forcing two fumbles, Mathieu was voted the Outstanding Defensive Player of the game and was awarded the Felix McKnight Trophy.
“We were up all night just talking,” Mathieu said. “He (Peterson) said that today would be my day. I just had to perform up to my expectations and not let anything distract me.”
At the age of 18, Mathieu is a true freshman – just the second in the history of the Cotton Bowl to receive an MVP honor. The other was Arkansas Razorback Cedric Cobbs, who was voted the offensive MVP of the 2000 Cotton Bowl Classic.
“I’m excited. I accept this award with humility and honor,” Mathieu said. “I think that says a lot about our coaching staff and the leaders on our team.”
Mathieu was a high school standout from New Orleans and came into tonight’s game ranked third in the SEC in fumbles, including three forced fumbles, and sixth in fumble recoveries with two. He recovered a fumble in LSU’s 41-24 victory and ran it back for a would-be touchdown, however, a holding call brought the score back. Mathieu also saved a touchdown on the opening kickoff of the game when he ran down Texas A&M’s Coryell Judie, whose 69-yard kickoff return was the second-longest in Cotton Bowl history.
LSU Coach Les Miles was not at all surprised by the MVP play of the true freshman.
“Tyrann Mathieu is a special athlete,” Miles said after the game. “He’s learning how to make those plays in the confines of a defense, but he always made those plays. I promise you, we did know that he was that capable.”
When asked about his accomplishments, the soft-spoken Mathieu repeatedly gave credit to his coaches and teammates, and especially to his friend and mentor, Peterson.
“He (Peterson) took me under his wing,” Mathieu said. “He showed me all the tricks of the game. I think that paid off in the end. He showed me how to be a gentleman off the field and how to play smart on the field. I just try to do that for him.”