'Honey Badger' Tries to Recover Promise

Tyrann Mathieu. (Les Bowen/Staff)

INDIANAPOLIS --- Tyrann Mathieu, like Manti Te'o the day before, talked a lot about having been humbled, about the need to prove his honesty, when Mathieu met with reporters Sunday at the NFL Scouting Combine.

But in NFL scouts' eyes, the "Honey Badger" from LSU has bigger problems than an imaginary girlfriend. Te'o still seems likely to be a first-round pick, maybe later in the round than before the scandal erupted around his dead girlfriend hoax. Mathieu, a corner, safety and punt returner who was the 2011 Chuck Bednarik Award winner as college defensive player of the year and MVP of the SEC Championship Game that same year, isn't likely to hear his named called in the first few rounds at all.

Mathieu didn't play in 2012 after being dismissed from the LSU team in August, reportedly for repeated drug test failures. He underwent rehab, but then he was arrested for marijuana possession in October. Off the record, NFL people will tell you they know players use marijuana and generally don't care, but if you can't stay off it long enough to pass a drug test, or to avoid getting arrested when you know your career is hanging by a thread, that might be indicative of much deeper problems.

Mathieu said he has learned his lesson.

“I know what it’s like to be humiliated," Mathieu said Sunday. "To go back down that road – there’s not a chance in the world, not a chance in my lifetime. Everything’s a process. I’m not saying I’m totally there. However, I am taking strides every day to be the best person that Tyrann can be.”

“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. Then I decided to go to a rehab, but this time, the rehab was for Tyrann. I just wasn’t going to it basically because my school told me to go. I actually wanted to get my problem corrected.”

“My best friend right now is honesty. I want to be as open as possible, because I’m trying to rebuild my trust. I want those guys to be able trust me. I hold myself accountable.”

“I’ve been to rehab. I’ve been to counseling. I have a sponsor. I’m surrounding myself with people who want to 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.”

Asked what teams want to know about his situation, Mathieu said: “They pretty much know everything. There’s not too much about off the field. It’s more on the field, do I still have it, am I capable of being the big-time player I was at LSU.”

With so much money hanging in the balance -- Mathieu estimated he had cost himself "millions" -- how did he let himself get to the point where he had to enter the NFL draft off a season missed because he couldn't stay away from marijuana?

“You actually start believing the hype, believing the newspaper clippings," Mathieu said. "The other half is, hey, I’m young, I want to have some fun. At the end of the day, I have to be a different type of person.”

"I talk to kids, but I don’t want to be a hypocrite. I don’t want to go up to kids and tell ‘em, ‘don’t smoke.’ I just crossed that bridge.”