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49ers to Face Rising Rookie Tyrann Matheiu

Posted Oct 9, 2013

The 49ers are set to face play-making rookie safety, Tyrann Matheiu of the Arizona Cardinals.

"The Honey Badger" seems to be sticking in Arizona.

The Cardinals rookie safety, Tyrann Matheiu, has done nothing but impress the NFC West club that made him the No. 69 overall selection (third-round) in the 2013 NFL Draft.

“His size and speed may not measure to how good of a football player he is,” Arizona head coach Bruce Arians said on a conference call with the Bay Area media.

Matheiu has 34 tackles on the season, second-most on his own team and fourth among all rookies in the NFL.

Matheiu has been a difference-maker on defense and will look to continue impacting Arizona’s defense when the Cardinals visit Candlestick Park this Sunday.

Arizona's rookie safety also has one interception, one forced fumble and one sack in five games.

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When asked about Matheiu’s impact, Arians couldn’t help but let out a tiny chuckle in answering the question, a sign of the rookie leaving a memorable mark on the organization.

“A ton of energy and a play-maker,” Arians began. “He has a been a relentless practice player. He gets mad if he doesn’t get every rep and he’s showing up on Sundays.”

Matheiu benefited from an unusual injury to starting free safety Rashad Johnson, who lost the tip of left middle finger after tackling New Orleans Saints running back Darren Sproles in a Week 3 loss.

Matheiu has started the last two games in place of Johnson and has 11 tackles in those games. Johnson is hopeful he can return to action this week against the 49ers, but if he's unable to go, the Cardinals are confident in Matheiu's ability.

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“He’s getting his hands on balls – he’s sacking quarterbacks – he’s a play-maker,” Arians said of his rookie.

Matheiu was a college teammate of 49ers starting free safety Eric Reid. Matheiu, known as “The Honey Badger,” was kicked off his college team in 2012 and slid down the draft boards because of character concerns.

Reid, the 49ers rookie selected No. 18 overall, gave his former teammate a positive review after the first day of the draft.

“He’s a great football player to be on the field with,” Reid said of Matheiu.

Although they went in different rounds, it looks like both former LSU defensive backs have enjoyed promising starts to their respective NFL careers.

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