Matt Vensel is in his first year at the Star Tribune after covering the Ravens for the Baltimore Sun for six years. He is a Pittsburgh native and a Penn State grad. Follow him at @mattvensel.

Mark Craig has covered the NFL for 23 years, and the Vikings since 2003 for the Star Tribune. He is one of 44 Pro Football Hall of Fame selectors. Follow him at @markcraignfl.

Master Tesfatsion is the Star Tribune’s digital Vikings writer. He is a 2013 graduate of Arizona State and worked for before arriving in Minneapolis. Follow him at @masterstrib.

With draft nearing, Tyrann Mathieu aiming to leave troubled past behind

Posted by: Updated: February 24, 2013 - 1:15 PM

Defensive back Tyrann Mathieu is a changed man. At least, that’s what the former Heisman Trophy finalist wants NFL teams to believe. So when Mathieu arrived at the combine this weekend, he was less worried about excelling on the football field and much more intent on convincing coaches and GMs that he won’t be a problem child if and when he arrives at the next level.

Following a turbulent 2012 that saw him dismissed from the LSU football team during the summer for failing a drug test and later arrested in October for marijuana possession, Mathieu realizes he almost completely squandered a chance to better his life through football.

Undoubtedly, his off-the-field troubles last year cast him as a troubled kid who is immature at best and self-absorbed and deeply irresponsible at worst. Mathieu realizes his fall from grace cost him a lot.

“Millions,” he said Sunday at the NFL Combine in Indianapolis. “But at the end of the day, I’m not focused on money right now. I just want to start playing football again because my whole life I’ve been playing for free. So to play for a couple hundred thousand dollars, it’s still football to me.”

So now comes the test for NFL teams aiming to determine whether investing in Mathieu is misguided. If you need a detailed look into why teams might be scared away, visit this Sports Illustrated story from last fall, which not only delivers details of Mathieu’s father being imprisoned as a convicted murderer when he was a toddler but also reveals the trappings of the social circles Mathieu found himself in.

Here’s a short excerpt:

Late in high school Tyrann and his friends formed a crew called Era Nation, made up of a dozen self-described athletes, rappers and songwriters. Era Nation remained part of Mathieu's life after he moved to LSU, and he stayed tight with the group even as he became nationally famous. Mathieu felt so strongly about Era Nation that Era was part of the handle on his Twitter account (@TM7_Era), which he recently shut down.

Over the last year Mathieu has appeared with his Era Nation buddies in multiple videos online that show them at clubs partying. In another video Mathieu wears a shirt that says, HERE'S TO FEELIN' GOOD ALL THE TIME. One Era Nation member who appears in many of the videos with Mathieu, Samuel Brooks, a rapper who goes by the name of Yung Soop, told SI about Mathieu's marijuana use: "It was a recreational thing. I don't believe he's addicted." Brooks, who was arrested in December 2010 for battery against his mother and later pleaded guilty to a charge of criminal damage, has also tweeted about producing Honey Badger T-shirts. Cordova says that Era Nation has been using Mathieu's celebrity to advance its own agenda. "When Tyrann started doing well, Brooks went around telling people, 'I don't have to do nothing now,' " Cordova says. " 'Tyrann's going to put me on when he goes to the league.' "

And that story was published before Mathieu’s October arrest.

But now Mathieu is trying to clean up his life. He said Sunday that he has changed his outlook on things and tried to surround himself with support from guys who have made it to the NFL. That includes former LSU teammates Morris Claiborne and Patrick Peterson as well as Darelle Revis and Corey Webster.

Furthermore, with NFL teams in tune with every misstep in his past, Mathieu is facing his issues head on and trying to be as straightforward as possible with all he’s been through and learned in the past year.

“My best friend right now is honesty. I want to be as open as possible. Because I’m trying to rebuild my trust.”

Mathieu said Sunday that being kicked off the LSU team initially felt like rock bottom. But then came that October arrest.

“That’s a different bottom,” he said. “So I decided to go to rehab. But this time the rehab was for Tyrann. I just wasn’t going to it for publicity or because my school told me to go to it. I wanted to get my problem corrected.”

Mathieu shrugs and laughs off the notion that his 5-foot-9-inch height will hinder him from succeeding at the next level.

“They can watch a whole lot of film on me,” he said. “I make plays. Height has very little to do with playing the game of football.”

Bigger questions will center around Mathieu’s drug issues and overall maturity. If he was unable to stay clean even after getting thrown off the LSU team, who’s to say temptation won’t swallow Mathieu again when he gets to the pros and increased money and attention come pouring in?

“Because I’ve been through it,” Mathieu responded. “I know what it’s like not to have football. I know what it’s like not to be in the front of the room, not to be the center of attention. And I know what it’s like to be humiliated. And to go back down the road? Nah. Not a chance in this world. Not a chance in my lifetime again.

“But everything is a process. I’m not saying that I’m totally there. But I am taking strides every day to be the best person that Tyrann can be.”


Tampa Bay - WP: J. McGee 6 FINAL
Toronto - LP: B. Morrow 5
Cleveland - LP: B. Shaw 4 FINAL
Detroit - WP: P. Coke 6
Washington - WP: J. Zimmermann 3 FINAL
NY Mets - LP: J. Niese 0
Chicago Cubs - LP: J. Turner 3 FINAL
Pittsburgh - WP: E. Volquez 7
Miami - WP: A. DeSclafani 5 FINAL
Philadelphia - LP: J. Papelbon 4
Cincinnati - LP: M. Leake 2 FINAL
Milwaukee - WP: M. Garza 9
Boston - WP: J. Kelly 8 FINAL
Kansas City - LP: J. Vargas 4
Minnesota - WP: T. May 6 FINAL
Chicago WSox - LP: H. Noesi 4
Colorado - LP: J. Lyles 1 FINAL
St. Louis - WP: M. Gonzales 4
Atlanta - LP: M. Minor 3 FINAL
Texas - WP: C. Lewis 10
Houston - WP: D. Keuchel 6 FINAL
LA Angels - LP: H. Santiago 1
Los Angeles - WP: C. Kershaw 4 FINAL
San Francisco - LP: Y. Petit 2
San Diego - LP: O. Despaigne 6 FINAL
Arizona - WP: Z. Spruill 8
Oakland - WP: J. Lester 4 FINAL
Seattle - LP: C. Young 0
NY Yankees 1 Bottom 8th Inning
Baltimore 1
Miami 10 FINAL
Buffalo 29
Jacksonville 10 FINAL
Washington 41
Dallas 26 FINAL
Tennessee 10
Arizona 25 FINAL
NY Giants 14
New England 30 FINAL
Minnesota 7
New Orleans 24 FINAL
Cleveland 26
Atlanta 10 FINAL
Cincinnati 24
Detroit 7 FINAL
Carolina 24
St. Louis 19 FINAL
Tampa Bay 17
Seattle 21 FINAL
San Diego 30
NY Jets 24 FINAL
Green Bay 31
Kansas City 17 FINAL
Denver 24
Houston 30 FINAL
Oakland 14
Chicago 7 3rd Qtr 5:56
San Francisco 20
Philadelphia 9/15/14 7:30 PM
Tampa Bay 9/18/14 7:25 PM
Boise State 38 FINAL
Connecticut 21
Indiana 42 FINAL
Bowling Green 45
Ga Southern 38 FINAL
Georgia Tech 42
Syracuse 40 FINAL
Central Mich 3
(18) Missouri 38
Massachusetts 31 FINAL
Vanderbilt 34
Ohio U 14 FINAL
Marshall 44
West Virginia 40 FINAL
Maryland 37
Kent State 0 FINAL
(23) Ohio State 66
Pittsburgh 42 FINAL
FIU 25
East Carolina 28 FINAL
Virginia Tech 21
Louisville 21 FINAL
Virginia 23
Wyoming 14 FINAL
(2) Oregon 48
Air Force 48 FINAL
Georgia State 38
(13) Georgia 35 FINAL
(14) So Carolina 38
Arkansas 49 FINAL
Texas Tech 28
Iowa State 20 FINAL
Iowa 17
Miami-Ohio 10 FINAL
Michigan 34
Kansas 3 FINAL
Duke 41
NC State 49 FINAL
So Florida 17
Arkansas State 20 FINAL
Miami-Florida 41
Miss State 35 FINAL
South Alabama 3
Louisiana 15 FINAL
(10) Ole Miss 56
Minnesota 7 FINAL
TCU 30
Illinois 19 FINAL
Washington 44
Army 0 FINAL
(16) Stanford 35
Western Mich 45 FINAL
Idaho 33
Eastern Mich 3 FINAL
Old Dominion 17
Southern Miss 12 FINAL
(3) Alabama 52
Northern Ill 48 FINAL
Tulsa 21 FINAL
Fla Atlantic 50
(8) LSU 31
Wake Forest 24 FINAL
Utah State 36
Western Ky 47 FINAL
Middle Tennessee 50
TX-San Antonio 13 FINAL
(25) Oklahoma State 43
Purdue 14 FINAL
(9) Notre Dame 30
Kentucky 30 FINAL
Florida 36
New Mexico St 24 FINAL
Texas-El Paso 42
Tennessee 10 FINAL
(4) Oklahoma 34
(17) USC 31 FINAL
Boston College 37
Navy 35 FINAL
Texas State 21
(12) UCLA 20 FINAL
Texas 17
Penn State 13 FINAL
Rutgers 10
Rice 10 FINAL
(6) Texas A&M 38
(15) Arizona State 38 FINAL
Colorado 24
(24) Nebraska 55 FINAL
Fresno State 19
Nevada 28 FINAL
Arizona 35
(5) Auburn 9/18/14 6:30 PM
(20) Kansas State
Connecticut 9/19/14 7:00 PM
So Florida
Old Dominion 9/20/14 11:00 AM
Troy 9/20/14 11:00 AM
(13) Georgia
Georgia Tech 9/20/14 11:00 AM
Virginia Tech
Eastern Mich 9/20/14 11:00 AM
(11) Michigan State
Iowa 9/20/14 11:00 AM
Bowling Green 9/20/14 11:00 AM
(19) Wisconsin
Maryland 9/20/14 11:30 AM
Tulane 9/20/14 11:30 AM
Hawaii 9/20/14 1:00 PM
Marshall 9/20/14 1:00 PM
North Carolina 9/20/14 2:30 PM
East Carolina
Army 9/20/14 2:30 PM
Wake Forest
Virginia 9/20/14 2:30 PM
(21) BYU
(6) Texas A&M 9/20/14 2:30 PM
Rutgers 9/20/14 2:30 PM
Central Mich 9/20/14 2:30 PM
Utah 9/20/14 2:30 PM
Florida 9/20/14 2:30 PM
(3) Alabama
Louisville 9/20/14 2:30 PM
Fla Atlantic 9/20/14 3:00 PM
Indiana 9/20/14 3:00 PM
(18) Missouri
San Jose St 9/20/14 3:00 PM
Texas State 9/20/14 3:00 PM
Massachusetts 9/20/14 3:00 PM
Penn State
Georgia State 9/20/14 5:00 PM
Appalachian St 9/20/14 6:00 PM
Southern Miss
Miss State 9/20/14 6:00 PM
(8) LSU
Northern Ill 9/20/14 6:00 PM
Middle Tennessee 9/20/14 6:00 PM
Utah State 9/20/14 6:00 PM
Arkansas State
Miami-Ohio 9/20/14 6:00 PM
Idaho 9/20/14 6:00 PM
Ohio U
Ball State 9/20/14 6:00 PM
(14) So Carolina 9/20/14 6:30 PM
(4) Oklahoma 9/20/14 6:30 PM
West Virginia
Ga Southern 9/20/14 6:30 PM
South Alabama
UNLV 9/20/14 7:00 PM
(22) Clemson 9/20/14 7:00 PM
(1) Florida State
Miami-Florida 9/20/14 7:00 PM
(24) Nebraska
New Mexico 9/20/14 7:00 PM
New Mexico St
California 9/20/14 9:00 PM
Louisiana 9/20/14 9:30 PM
Boise State
(2) Oregon 9/20/14 9:30 PM
Washington St
San Diego St 9/20/14 9:30 PM
Oregon State
Los Angeles 1 FINAL
San Jose 1
Montreal 16 FINAL
Edmonton 33
Toronto 33 FINAL
Calgary 40
Winnipeg 9 FINAL
Brt Columbia 26
Saskatchewan 3 FINAL
Hamilton 28
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Date/Opponent Time W L Score
2014 preseason     
Aug 8 - vs. Oakland 7 pmX10-6
Aug 16 - vs. Arizona 7:30 pmX30-28
Aug 23 - at Kansas City 7 pmX30-12
Aug 28 - at Tennessee 7 pmX19-3
2014 regular season     
Sep 7 - at St. Louis NoonX34-6
Sep 14 - vs. New England Noon
Sep 21 - at New Orleans Noon
Sep 28 - vs. Atlanta 3:25 pm
Oct 2 - at Green Bay 7:25 pm
Oct 12 - vs. Detroit Noon
Oct 19 - at. Buffalo Noon
Oct 26 - at Tampa Bay Noon
Nov 2 - vs. Washington Noon
Nov 9 - Bye
Nov 16 - at Chicago Noon
Nov. 23 - vs. Green Bay Noon
Nov. 30 - vs. Carolina Noon
Dec 7 - vs. NY Jets Noon
Dec 14 - at Detroit Noon
Dec 21 - at Miami Noon
Dec 28 - vs. Chicago Noon




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