Tyrann Mathieu says New Orleans Saints 'the place I've always wanted to be'

METAIRIE, La. -- This homecoming was worth the wait for Tyrann Mathieu.

Not just the past several weeks of free agency, when the three-time first-team All Pro was holding out hope for what he called a "perfect" fit with his hometown New Orleans Saints. But the 10th-year veteran insisted Wednesday that this was something he had been "manifesting" for the past couple of years, even while thriving with the Kansas City Chiefs.

"This was the place I've always wanted to be. And I think most people around me, they wanted that, too," said Mathieu, who pointed out the Saints were the only team he visited in person during free agency before he signed a three-year deal that sources told ESPN's Adam Schefter is worth $33 million with $18 million in guarantees.

"From there it was just about everything coming together, aligning," Mathieu said. "But I've kind of been manifesting this for a while now. Just to have this opportunity means a lot to me."

Mathieu only hinted at a desire to prove the Chiefs (and other teams) wrong, telling the Saints' podcast, "As good of a football player as I think I am, maybe I'm not good enough, so that's what's kind of keeping me motivated."

And when a reporter mentioned that Mathieu is about to turn 30 on May 13, he joked in response, "You said 30 like that's old. I'm just heating up."

Mostly, however, Mathieu said he is excited to join a Saints defense under new head coach and former coordinator Dennis Allen that he has admired from afar for several years. And he is equally excited to "impact the community that I grew up in."

The feeling is mutual among the Saints' fan base, where his jersey is already in high demand.

There was a time when the former LSU and St. Augustine High School star said that leaving Southern Louisiana was the best thing for him.

After the Heisman Trophy finalist was kicked off the LSU team for multiple failed drug tests in 2012 and was later arrested on a marijuana possession charge, Mathieu decided to change his surroundings and move away from some negative influences as he focused on maturing and reviving his football career.

Then in 2016, after former Saints star Will Smith was shot and killed in New Orleans, Mathieu was vocal about how he didn't feel safe enough to spend more than two days in his former city -- later explaining that his comments were tied to his emotions over losing loved ones over the years.

However, Mathieu came back to host a youth camp later in 2016 and has been hosting camps ever since. He has also returned more and more in recent years to Baton Rouge, where he has been a big LSU supporter.

"To be honest, I've lived a long life in this NFL thing," Mathieu said with a laugh Wednesday. "When I realized the Saints wanted me, and obviously I wanted them, it was a situation that I knew I wasn't going to pass up.

"New Orleans has always been a great place, this has always been a great community. I think 10, 11 years ago, when I was a 20-year-old kid, I think it was just important for me to kind of remove myself from certain things, certain environments, so I could work on myself and get myself to a certain point to where I can come back home and be responsible and be the person I know I can be. It's been a great process.

"I've got great people that support me, that I lean on. So I think without those people and without my commitment to just try to do things the right way, I think this opportunity wouldn't even be in front of me. So like I said, I'm just grateful to be here, to have this opportunity, and to be able to get in the community and really inspire these kids to be better, to give them some hope. I think that's what it's ultimately all about."