Philadelphia, PA (Sports Network) - 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
"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
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
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
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
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
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
THE 2013 NFL DRAFT: TSN'S TOP CORNERBACKS
1. - Dee Milliner, Alabama
2. - Xavier Rhodes, Florida State
3. - Desmond Trufant, Washington
4. - Johnthan Banks, Mississippi State
5. - D.J. Hayden, Houston
6. - Jamar Taylor, Boise State
7. - David Amerson, North Carolina State
8. - Darius Slay, Mississippi State
9. - Logan Ryan, Rutgers
10. - Tyrann Mathieu, LSU
SKILL REPORT: THE CORNERBACKS
Best Cover Corner: Xavier Rhodes, Florida State
Best Zone Corner: Dee Milliner, Alabama
Best Slot Corner: Tyrann Mathieu, LSU
Best Ball Skills: Tyrann Mathieu, LSU
Best In Run Support: Duke Williams, Nevada
Fastest: Robert Alford, Southeast Louisiana
Underrated: Sanders Commings, Georgia
THE 2013 NFL DRAFT: TSN'S TOP SAFETIES
1. - Kenny Vaccaro, Texas
2. - Matt Elam, Florida
3. - Jonathan Cyprien, Florida International
4. - Eric Reid, LSU
5. - Phillip Thomas, Fresno State
6. - Bacarri Rambo, Georgia
7. - Shawn Williams, Georgia
8. - Tony Jefferson, Oklahoma
9. - Zeke Motta, Notre Dame
10. - D.J. Swearinger, South Carolina
SKILL REPORT: THE SAFETIES
Best Cover Safety: Kenny Vaccaro, Texas
Best Run Support Safety: Matt Elam, Florida
Best Ball Skills: Eric Reid, LSU
Biggest Intimidator: D.J. Swearinger, South Carolina
Fastest: Shamarko Thomas, Syracuse
Underrated: Josh Evans, Florida
The Sports Network