There’s a Tyrann Mathieu in every NFL Draft: elite ability, more baggage than an airport’s claim section. Professional sports teams will always roll the dice on talent, whether that means drafting a player like Allen Iverson or giving Michael Vick a second chance. Sometimes it works out, sometimes it’s a waste of everyone’s time (see: Maurice Clarett). And so, with Mathieu out of jail and trying his hardest to clear his name, the question has to be asked: will the Honey Badger make it in the NFL?
Mathieu’s recent emotional testimony in front of ESPN cameras paints a clear picture: he’s hit the lowest of the low, and knows that keeping his head down and playing football is his ticket to a better life. Now that he’s out of jail and making the necessary media rounds, he can start looking towards the future, doing everything necessary to get on an NFL roster.
He recently moved to Florida to live with former LSU star Patrick Patterson’s family, and, as he notes in the interview, working out to impress at the NFL Draft combine. Moving away from the people that constantly brought him down couldn’t have been easy, but it was necessary. And, with his NFL future hardly etched in stone, it appears that he made the move before it was too late.
Make no mistake, Mathieu will get drafted, probably within the first three rounds. His ability to play, if not excel, at the pro level is hardly a question: his speed and athleticism bode well for a starring role on special teams, and as he proved prowling LSU’s defensive secondary, he’s one of the best defensive playmakers we’ve seen on the college level. Once he gets there, it’ll be on him to find the necessary support to cope with the league’s omnipresent limelight.
Maybe, if he really has learned from his mistakes – if he really is willing to turn his back on his past and surround himself with good, positive influences – the NFL will have found its next star defensive back. Maybe he can be an example of positive change, of a man doing whatever it takes to be more in the present than he ever was in the past. Maybe he can use his newfound clarity to help others in a similar situation.
Smart decisions and a humble lifestyle are the only way he can erase that word, “maybe.” Time to start, Honey Badger.