Tyrann Mathieu moves on from ‘The Honey Badger’ and drug habit, hoping for shot in the NFL

February 24, 2013

Tyrann Mathieu (7) says his drug problems are now a thing of the past. (Kevin C. Cox/Associated Press)

Desperate to prove to do whatever possible to prove to NFL officials and coaches that he has exorcised the demons that led to his dismissal from LSU’s football team, got him arrested and prompted him to check into drug rehab, the player formerly known as the “Honey Badger” addressed members of the media at Lucas Oil Stadium on Sunday.

And when he did, a seemingly humble and rather candid Tyrann Mathieu said his main message to NFL teams is that he’s learned from his mistakes. He also insists that he remains an impact football player despite missing the last season. And despite his questionable size, he will be able to play any position in the secondary if given the chance.

“First of all, I want them to be able to trust me,” said Mathieu, who was a finalist for the Heisman Trophy in 2011 for his exploits as a defensive back and return man. “I hold myself accountable for everything I’ve done this past year. It’s been tough, but at the end of the day, I want them to know I’m a football player, I can be a great teammate, and I want to be the same leader on the field that I feel like I can be off the field.”

Mathieu added: “I’m not totally asking them to trust me right now. But what I am asking is for them to give me an opportunity to play the game again. I’ve had a lot of time to reflect on it, especially without football. So, really, it’s given me a new outlook on life and just about being the right kind of person.”

Elaborating further on the lessons learned, Mathieu said, ‘I thought my bottom was when I got kicked out of school, but when I got arrested in October, that was different bottom. I decided to go into rehab. But this time, the rehab was for Tyrann. It wasn’t going because my school wanted me to go, I wanted to get my problem corrected.”

While he became popular for his play and nickname in 2011, Mathieu says he has moved on from the “Honey Badger.”

“I have, but a lot of people haven’t. I’m Tyrann right now,” he said. “If the Honey Badger sticks, it sticks. But right now, I’m focusing on being Tyrann Mathieu.”

Mathieu said he had a formal interview with the Redskins on Saturday night. He said NFL teams have asked him about his drug use (he says he hasn’t used since Oct. 26, 2011). And he was woken up at 4 a.m. Sunday to take a random drug test.

With nothing but legal woes and embarrassment to show for from what would have been a junior campaign, Mathieu’s draft stock has plunged to the point where most analysts don’t envision him getting selected until the fourth round.

And in addition to the multiple failed drug tests before his dismissal from LSU, and then his arrest in October, there are questions about how his game would translate to the NFL. Mathieu is only 5 feet 9 and 178 pounds, and although he boasts impressive speed that would make him a talented return man, there are concerns that he lacks the coverage skills to be a starting cornerback, and that he’s not big enough to be a safety.

“Most teams that I’ve talked to have him more in the fourth round because they don’t think he’s very big and he’s not going to run very fast, and he’s had off‑the‑field issues,” NFL Network draft guru Mike Mayock said. “That could change with a good time, but he’s an intriguing guy.”

But Mathieu said he’s not worried about his position in the NFL. He believes given the chance, he will prove himself fully capable.

“I started a game at safety one game and I was national defensive player of the week,” said Mathieu, who has spent the year working to improve his skills. “I played nickel, basically my whole career and I was the starting corner on the depth chart, at cornerback. But it doesn’t matter anymore. I can play all of them in the secondary. “

Mathieu acknowledged that his poor judgment cost himself dearly from a financial standpoint as well. But that’s not his concern. He doesn’t really care where he goes in the draft, or which team selects him, or how much they pay him. One more chance is the only thing he wants.

“Millions,” he said when asked how much money he cost himself. “But at the and of the day, I’m not focused on money right now. I just want to start playing football again. I’ve played football all my life for free, so to play it for a couple hundred dollars, it’s still football.”

Mike Jones covers the Washington Redskins for The Washington Post. When not writing about a Redskins development of some kind – which is rare – he can be found screaming and cheering at one of his kids’ softball, baseball, soccer or basketball games.
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Mark Maske · February 24, 2013

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