The sun comes up on a Saturday morning, the LSU Tigers are on a bye week, and former star cornerback Tyrann Mathieu is still making headlines.
How? The Heisman finalist spent a portion of last night in a Baton Rouge prison after he and a bunch of other former LSU football players were arrested for Marijuana possession.
The arrest, of course, comes a week after Mathieu became the first technical non-athlete to grace the cover of Sports Illustrated in a long time as the magazine ran a feature story detailing his fall from grace.
If you read the story, you already know how the song and dance goes. Tyrann’s father was a tremendously talented football player before narcotics destroyed his life. Tyrann came to LSU and enjoyed a meteoric rise as, quite possibly, a once-in-a-generation defensive back. Then, in August, Mathieu was cut from the team. The reason? Supposedly, it was a failed drug test, and not his first one.
The SI article, from there, paints that underdog portrait we all love. Mathieu went into rehab and got a “reality check” as he lived with others much farther into the grip of addiction than himself. Then, he moved back to Baton Rouge to attend classes, living off campus as a changed man intent on making a comeback.
That is, until last night.
Now that underdog story seems hollow. Just a few days ago, Mathieu’s goals to be the most feared defensive back to come out of LSU since LaRon Landry seemed very much possible. Instead of Landry, though, Mathieu now looks more like ex-Tiger JaMarcus Russell.
There are differences, to be sure, but one common, underlying truth ultimately define Russell and Mathieu’s football careers: they were given a whole heap of talent and never had the will power nor the mental fortitude to ensure they made the most of their gifts.
Quite frankly, it’s absolutely frustrating. To see a kid that could’ve been Charles-Woodson-good throw everything away because he rather get stoned is infuriating. I’m sorry, I have no sympathy for Mathieu, and neither should you.
The second half of the Sports Illustrated article talks a great deal about how, in order to stop making poor decisions, you need to change the people you associate yourself with. And yet, on October 26th, two months into officially being a FORMER college football player, he was back with his old pals.
And as you learn the details of his arrest, it becomes more and more clear how close to his old lifestyle Mathieu still is. This wasn’t a case of Mathieu being at the wrong party at the wrong time or being caught in the same room as someone who was holding. No, the police found Mathieu in HIS off-campus apartment with a marijuana grinder, scale, and 10 baggies of pot.
In fact, for one of the other former LSU football players arrested, Karnell Hatcher, it was the SECOND time he’d been picked up for possession.
So here you have Tyrann Mathieu, the kid that, if you believed the SI feature, was trying to turn his life around, with drug paraphernalia usually reserved for a habitual user and associating with guys already known to smoke weed. And you expect me to root for this kid? Forget about it.
Last season Mathieu famously became known as the ‘Honey Badger’ for his fearlessness. Well, maybe Tyrann SHOULD have feared a few things. You know, things like pissing a promising future away and repeating the mistakes his incarcerated father begged him not to.
Since I’m not in his head, I can’t say matter-of-factly that he was NOT afraid of such things, but clearly he wasn’t scared enough. And now it may be too late.
Before being released from the LSU football team, Mathieu was widely considered to be a potential Top 5 draft pick. After his release, some executives still saw him going as high as the third round. But now? After a history drug use has been established? He’ll be lucky to hear his name called at all.
Think I’m being too harsh? The NFL today isn’t like that of even a few years ago. Owners and front offices are tired of wasting money on players with obvious red flag. They’re fed up with not getting returns on their investments and it’s leading teams to make safer and safer bets with their draft picks.
But it’s just a little pot, you say. That may be, but what is a little pot to you and I is completely different to someone trying to make it as a professional athlete. To them, it’s quite literally playing chicken with their careers.
Is it a double standard? Yes, absolutely, but double standards have existed in professional sports for centuries. Just look at steroids. To you and I, as human beings, steroids can be miraculous modern medicine. But to you and I, as sports fans, steroids are those things that ruined what we’ve loved so much.
So maybe it is just some weed, but you know what? “Some weed” is all it takes. I know that, you know that, and Mathieu should have known that.
He has what some refer to as “god given” talent as a football player, but his decision-making and maturity are all too mortal. You see, fearlessness is a double-edged sword. While it provides someone with an immense amount of courage and fortitude, it can also lead people to throw caution to the wind when, perhaps, caution is most due.
And that’s why, in the wake of all this, Tyrann Mathieu’s nickname as the “Honey Badger” may be even more fitting. Because when you play football like nothing can hurt you, it tends to transition over into other aspects of your life.
When it came to the aspects of his life that have derailed his football future, Tyrann Mathieu could’ve stopped it.
But, quite simply, the honey badger don’t care.
NOTE: This story was originally published on SportsHead. To read this article and others click here.
When Bryan isn’t writing, he is on Twitter! Make sure to give him a follow @bclienesch for NCAA updates and other shenanigans