Indianapolis, In. - Say the name 'Tyrann Mathieu' and it instantly draws a reaction around NFL circles for all the right...and all the wrong reasons.
"I like him." - Mike Mayock, NFL Network Draft Expert
"When you watch the tape, the ball just finds a way to fall into his hands whether it's interceptions, fumble recoveries, punt returns, the guy is a dynamic athlete." - Steve Keim, Cardinals General Manager
"When you look at a guy that has off-field incidents, you try to get as much information as possible at first. You want to be information gatherers, you want to evaluate the situation." - John Idzik, Jets General Manager
"How he handles not the public meetings because I expect him to say all the right things, but how he handles things privately with all the teams and whether they buy into it or not I think is the most important issues."- Mayock
"I rely on our experts in that area to tell us if we can potentially handle a player like that." - Rick Speilman, Vikings General Manager
None of this surprises Mathieu. In fact, he knows he brought it upon himself so now he has adopted a new policy "My best friend right now is honesty, you know I want to be as open as possible, because I'm trying to rebuild my trust…I want those guys to be able to trust me…you know I hold myself accountable."
And that trust must be earned, but it won't come easy, especially after Mathieu was kicked off LSU's team for reportedly failing multiple drug tests. Mathieu didn't think it could get any worse, but then it did "I thought my bottom was when I got kicked out of school, but I think when I got arrested in October that was a different bottom. I decided to go to rehab and but at this time the rehab was for Tyrann, I wasn't going to it for publicity or because my school told me to go. I actually wanted to get my problem corrected.
After a year away from the game, Mathieu said he saw himself from the outside looking in. He says 'The Honey Badger' read his press clippings and believed all the hype, now he's humbled. He tightened his inner circle and turned to mentors like former LSU Tigers Patrick Peterson, Morris Claiborne, and Corey Webster for guidance.
He knows some teams will question his commitment to stay clean but Mathieu believes he has come too far to screw up again "I know what it's like not to have football, I know what it's like not to be in front of the room, not be the center of attention, I know what it's like to be humiliated, to go back down that road, not a chance in this world, not a chance in my life time again."
As for on the field, Mathieu feels like he hasn't missed a beat. He says he hopes to run a 4.4 40-yard dash at his workout Tuesday and the year away has not diminished his skills "Once I get back playing football, I'm still going to make those big time plays and I'm going to be that excitement for my team."
Mathieu's off the field issues didn't just hurt his image, they hurt his wallet as well. He says he knows his problems will probably him millions of dollars but he says he can only play for a couple hundred thousand, that's fine, it's still football to him.
For more reports from Sean Fazende and Garland Gillen on the NFL Combine, tune into FOX 8.
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