Just a season ago Tyrann Mathieu captured the college football scene by storm. The diminutive defensive back was a one-man army for the Louisiana State University Tigers, earning the nickname “Honey Badger” for his tenacity on the field for LSU.
After finishing among the finalists for the Heisman Trophy, the then-sophomore seemed like a sure lock for the first round of the 2013 National Football League (NFL) draft. But Mathieu’s 2012-2013 season went up in smoke before it could start. LSU bid adieu to Mathieu prior to the season in August over a failed drug test and while stories of a re-dedicated Mathieu were encouraging, the recent arrest of the former Tiger along with three other former LSU football stars on marijuana possession charges has cast new doubt on a once promising NFL career. Will Mathieu overcome his troubles and make it to the NFL? Stephen D. Riley and Perry Green debate.
Riley: With as much talent as Mathieu displayed in a fantastic sophomore campaign in 2011, there will be a home for him somewhere in the NFL once he’s eligible this summer. There have been players with bigger problems than the “Honey Badger” that have gone on to succeed in professional sports with half the talent. I wouldn’t bet against the Badger.
Green: How many chances does one person need before a coach decides to give up? After the Maurice Clarett fiasco and Adam “Pacman” Jones saga, I don’t think coaches are as eager to overlook poor judgment in lieu of talent. The NFL is more business than it is a rehab spot and Mathieu has already been kicked off a team once. Blowing a draft pick on this guy would be foolish.
Riley: How foolish would using a draft pick on a Heisman finalist be? Sure, there are the horror stories about guys like Clarett and Jones but look at successes such as Randy Moss, Chris Carter and others. Former Cleveland Brown offensive tackle Lomas Brown was quoted earlier in the year as saying he believes that at least 50 percent of NFL players smoke marijuana, a significant drop from the 90 percent that he said smoked when he came into the league in 1985, according to nfl.com. Mathieu’s still young and still has room to grow but suggesting a team won’t give him a chance is silly.
Green: How silly is it to suggest that a team won’t take a chance on a player who just got arrested for the same reason that got him kicked off one of the top collegiate teams in America? It’s obvious he has a serious drug problem and if being booted from LSU wasn’t a wakeup call then what will be?
Riley: Jail has a habit of changing people. Life-changing circumstances such as being kicked off his team and an arrest could be just the thing to straighten Mathieu out. The playmaking ability that Mathieu displayed last season had not been seen since the days of Charles Woodson, who eventually won a Heisman Trophy from his cornerback position as a junior for the University of Michigan. Any kid who can earn votes for Player of the Year from the defensive backfield obviously has immense talent. We already know the inconsistency about people’s feelings over marijuana so let’s not act like he’s using some performance-enhancing drugs or heroin. He makes poor decisions but he can play. He’ll be in the NFL next season.
Green: NFL commissioner Roger Goodell has already made it clear in his short time at the league helm that stupidity and drugs won’t be tolerated. It’s clear that Mathieu’s a habitual user and he’ll be spotlighted from the moment he gets drafted, if that is the case. I’m still not entirely sold that a team will be willing to put up with the circus that has now become the Honey Badger. If he is drafted, the pursuing team better be wary.