Few players coming out of this year’s draft have as many off-the-field questions as former LSU defensive back Tyrann Mathieu.
The 2011 Heisman Trophy finalist known as the “Honey Badger” missed all of last season after getting dismissed from LSU’s team for reportedly failing numerous drug tests, and he then went through rehab last summer.
His focus over the next few weeks is to convince teams that he’s trustworthy and worth the investment of a draft pick. Through the pre-draft process, Ravens veteran safety
“He never talked to me personally but he's reached out to my adoptive parents,” Mathieu said Sunday at the NFL Combine. “He's reached out to my agent and [former LSU defensive back and current Arizona Cardinals cornerback] Patrick Peterson."
Reed works with and advises a number of young players around the NFL. Just last year he reached out to South Carolina State safety
Mathieu, who is projected as a mid-to-late round draft pick, told reporters that he hasn’t used marijuana since being arrested for misdemeanor possession Oct. 25.
"I've been to rehabs, I've been to counseling, I have a sponsor,” Mathieu 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."
Mathieu burst on the national stage during his sophomore season at LSU, as he showed off his skills as a dynamic playmaker on defense and in the return game. He drew comparisons to Reed based on his nose for the football, and ability to find the end zone once he got the ball in his hands.
Mathieu went on to finish fifth in the Heisman Trophy voting that season, and he admits that he got caught up in his own success.
“I think half of it is you actually start believing the hype,” he said. “You actually start believing the newspaper clippings and the other half is, ‘Hey, I'm young and I want to have some fun.’ But at the end of the day I have to be a different kind of person.”
As fast as Mathieu rose to prominence, his mistakes ended up costing him a season of college football and millions of dollars in the process.
“At the end of the day I'm not focused on money right now,” he said. “I just want to start playing football again because for my whole life I played it for free. To play now for a couple hundred thousand dollars, it's still football to me."
His ability to show NFL head coaches and general managers that he’s trustworthy over the next few weeks will be pivotal in determining where he ends up getting drafted, and his hope now is that he convinces somebody he deserves a second chance.
"I'm not totally asking them to trust me right now," he 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."