Honey Badger seeks REDEMPTION

  • Article by: JOHN MCMULLEN , The Sports Network
  • Updated: April 19, 2013 - 2:32 PM

"My best friend right now is honesty," says former LSU cornerback Tyrann Mathieu. "I want to be as open as possible because I'm trying to rebuild people's trust." Mathieu's future is one of the interesting tales in this year's NFL Draft, which runs from Thursday through Saturday.

hide

Cornerback Tyrann Mathieu (7) works out during LSU's NFL football pro day in Baton Rouge, La., Wednesday, March 27, 2013.

Photo: Sean Gardner, Associated Press - Ap

CameraStar Tribune photo galleries

Cameraview larger

Tyrann Mathieu could end up as a walking, talking public service announcement -- good or bad -- for the disenfranchised youth in our society.

Smoking marijuana may be cool to some and it's certainly more acceptable than ever before, but to the movers and shakers of the world -- the one's who do the hiring and firing -- it's still frowned upon.

Mathieu, the former Louisiana State cornerback who was a Heisman Trophy finalist in 2011, is finding that out as he navigates through the NFL Draft process as a high-risk prospect. To his credit, Mathieu has taken the mature approach to his well-documented substance-abuse problems, admitting to at least 10 drug test failures while at LSU.

"My best friend right now is honesty," the New Orleans native said. "I want to be as open as possible because I'm trying to rebuild people's trust and I want those guys (NFL personnel people) to be able to trust me and I hold myself accountable."

It was quite the fall for the "Honey Badger," a dynamic playmaker who recorded 77 tackles, 1 1/2 sacks, two interceptions, five forced fumbles and four touchdowns (two on fumble recoveries and two on punt returns) for a 2011 Tigers team which finished No. 2 in the nation after losing the BCS National Championship Game to SEC rival Alabama.

Mathieu was awarded the Chuck Bednarik Award, given to the best defensive player in the country. He was living on the edge, however, largely due to his drug habit. Embarrassing pictures surfaced on gossip sites around the country when a spurned ex-girlfriend accused him of being "with half of Baton Rouge," while the drug test failures continued to pile up.

Eight months after his brilliant 2011 season, LSU coach Les Miles announced Mathieu would be dismissed from the football team due to "a violation of team rules."

News outlets quickly reported that the dismissal was a result of repeated drug test failures and Mathieu eventually withdrew from the university to enter a rehabilitation program in Houston

"I don't really know exactly what Ty's specifics were, but I stand by our policy, and it really did help, in some way, identify a problem," Miles said when interviewed on NFL AM this week.

Seeking help is often the first step in turning one's life around, but Mathieu didn't take advantage of his first chance. Six weeks after being dismissed by Miles, he and three other former LSU players were arrested for possession of marijuana. With college no longer an option, Mathieu dived into the process of preparing for an NFL future by relocating to South Florida and cutting off all of the "bad influences" in his life, including close family members and ex-teammates.

He met with multiple teams during the Senior Bowl and that was followed by a so-so showing at the NFL Scouting Combine in February when he ran a 4.50-second 40-yard dash, bench-pressed 225 pounds four times and flashed a 34-inch vertical leap.

Certain general mangers have surely red-flagged Mathieu and won't even consider putting his name on their draft boards come April 25, but others will be intrigued by his upside.

A short but sturdy prospect in the mold of Antoine Winfield, Mathieu really took to the big stage in Baton Rouge.

"I think my football skill speaks for itself," Mathieu said. "I don't think I lost a step (after missing last season). I'm not totally focused on football right now. It's more about the person and getting those things I've done wrong corrected."

Like Winfield, the "Honey Badger" plays a lot bigger than he is and looks ideal as a slot defender on the next level. He also adds the potential to be an impact punt returner. His height and lack of elite closing speed could hurt him outside the numbers, however.

"He's a guy who has spectacular ball skills. I've never seen him mishandle a ball. His vision for play, he anticipates the big play," Miles said. "If I'm an NFL team I'm going to look at him first as a punt returner, I'm going to look at him as a kick returner, and the opportunity for him to play in a number of spots as a nickel/dime corner."

Skills like that would likely place Mathieu in the second or third round if he didn't carry so much baggage.

Recently, the former Tigers star embarked on a 10-stop tour with teams around the league in the hopes of selling the "Honey Badger" brand and at least explaining his troubled past.

"First of all, I want them to be able to trust me," Mathieu said. "I hold myself accountable for everything I've done and in this past year, it's been tough. At the end of the day, I want them to know that I'm a football player. I want to be a great teammate and I want to be the same leader on the field that I know I can be off the field."

Taking a flyer on Mathieu will make plenty of sense for some teams. The question is when can they afford to take a blind leap on a guy who has had to basically quarantine himself to keep temptation away.

"I've been to rehabs, I've been to counseling, I have a sponsor," he said. "I'm surrounded by people who do what I want to do and that's be a professional football player. I think the last few months have been going pretty good for me."

That kind of support system won't be possible during the NFL season, though, making Mathieu the classic boom-or-bust prospect.

"I'm not totally asking them to trust me right now," Mathieu said. "What I have asked is for them to give me an opportunity to play the game. I've had a lot of time to reflect on it, especially without football. It's really given me a different outlook on life and it's just about being the right kind of person."

  • get related content delivered to your inbox

  • manage my email subscriptions

ADVERTISEMENT

New England 0 1st Qtr 9:20
Seattle 0
Miami 83 FINAL
Boston 75
LA Lakers 80 FINAL
New York 92
Arizona 3 FINAL
Montreal 2
St. Louis 4 FINAL
Washington 3
Nashville 4 FINAL
Pittsburgh 0
Minnesota 4 FINAL
Vancouver 2
Miami-Florida 54 FINAL
Florida State 55
Oakland 96 FINAL
Youngstown St 80
Cincinnati 46 FINAL
East Carolina 50
Michigan 66 FINAL
Michigan State 76
Marist 75 FINAL
Canisius 67
Fordham 77 FINAL
Dayton 101
Manhattan 87 FINAL
Monmouth 76
Quinnipiac 100 FINAL
Niagara 105
Utah 67 FINAL
USC 39
Connecticut 68 FINAL
Houston 70
California 90 FINAL
Washington 88
North Dakota St 64 FINAL
Western Ill 62
Penn State 65 FINAL
(22) Rutgers 76
(14) Texas 59 FINAL
TCU 64
Coll of Charleston 49 FINAL
Towson 71
Cornell 53 FINAL
Yale 60
Xavier 68 FINAL
Providence 57
Drexel 61 FINAL
UNC-Wilmington 44
Stony Brook 60 FINAL
New Hampshire 52
Maine 52 FINAL
Albany 44
Miami-Florida 66 FINAL
Pittsburgh 81
(21) Georgia 72 FINAL
(10) Kentucky 80
Arizona 69 FINAL
Colorado 81
Wake Forest 63 FINAL
(4) Notre Dame 92
Loyola-Chicago 56 FINAL
Illinois State 72
(24) Oklahoma 69 FINAL
West Virginia 78
St Johns 73 FINAL
Seton Hall 78
Delaware 73 FINAL
Hofstra 62
Binghamton 49 FINAL
UMass Lowell 66
Vermont 49 FINAL
Hartford 60
William & Mary 72 FINAL
Northeastern 66
Boston College 60 FINAL
(16) North Carolina 72
Virginia 77 FINAL
Clemson 72
(2) Connecticut 83 FINAL
Temple 49
Arkansas 53 FINAL
Alabama 42
Virginia Tech 71 FINAL
Georgia Tech 79
Kansas 58 FINAL
(3) Baylor 66
Canisius 51 FINAL
Rider 52
Monmouth 52 FINAL
Fairfield 54
Quinnipiac 81 FINAL
Saint Peters 50
Butler 55 FINAL
Creighton 62
Wichita State 61 FINAL
Drake 64
Evansville 52 FINAL
Indiana State 67
(18) Miss State 67 FINAL
(6) Tennessee 79
Villanova 47 FINAL
DePaul 49
Georgetown 73 FINAL
Marquette 80
North Texas 55 FINAL
Rice 58
Auburn 45 FINAL
(12) Texas A&M 78
(11) Arizona State 58 FINAL
Utah 48
Missouri State 56 FINAL
Northern Iowa 64
Michigan 60 FINAL
(15) Nebraska 75
Minnesota 49 FINAL
Northwestern 70
Wisconsin 73 FINAL
Illinois 62
Bradley 59 FINAL
Southern Ill 76
Florida 67 FINAL
Vanderbilt 58
(20) Iowa 88 FINAL
(5) Maryland 93
(1) South Carolina 77 FINAL
Ole Miss 59
Connect with twitterConnect with facebookConnect with Google+Connect with PinterestConnect with PinterestConnect with RssfeedConnect with email newsletters

ADVERTISEMENT

ADVERTISEMENT

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 NoonX30-7
Sep 21 - at New Orleans NoonX20-9
Sep 28 - vs. Atlanta 3:25 pmX41-28
Oct 2 - at Green Bay 7:25 pmX42-10
Oct 12 - vs. Detroit NoonX17-3
Oct 19 - at. Buffalo NoonX17-16
Oct 26 - at Tampa Bay NoonX19-13 ot
Nov 2 - vs. Washington NoonX29-26
Nov 9 - Bye
Nov 16 - at Chicago NoonX21-13
Nov. 23 - vs. Green Bay NoonX24-21
Nov. 30 - vs. Carolina NoonX31-13
Dec 7 - vs. NY Jets NoonX30-24 ot
Dec 14 - at Detroit 3:25 pmX16-14
Dec 21 - at Miami NoonX37-35
Dec 28 - vs. Chicago NoonX13-9

ADVERTISEMENT

ADVERTISEMENT

ADVERTISEMENT

question of the day

Poll: Who wins the Super Bowl?

Weekly Question

ADVERTISEMENT

 
Close