As of last Friday, we knew we wouldn't be seeing Tyrann Mathieu again in an LSU uniform. Now, it turns out we may not be seeing him again in any uniform anytime soon: According to a New Orleans television station that spoke with Mathieu's father, the All-American cornerback/punt returner has spent the last four days in rehab, where he expects to remain for the foreseeable future after being dismissed from LSU following the latest in a series of failed drug tests. Contrary to myriad reports that he was seeking a transfer to play at another school, it appears the "Honey Badger" will not see a football field this season.
WVUE in New Orleans reported Thursday night that Mathieu has been in a recovery center in Houston since Monday of this week, a report confirmed this morning by CBSSports.com's Bruce Feldman. There, he's reportedly being mentored by former NBA star John Lucas, who specializes in helping athletes recover from addiction based on his own battles with cocaine and alcohol prior to becoming an NBA head coach. Mathieu's father, Tyrone, told the station he considered his son's decision to put football on the back burner a "mature" one, and that he's proud of Tyrann for taking a proactive step to address the problem.
In the most recent entry on his Twitter page, Mathieu wrote last Sunday, "Patience.... Sometimes you have to stop doing what is easy and begin to do the things that are hard. ...#Faith."
Citing a "source close to Mathieu," the Times-Picayune reported last week that he was dismissed for failing a drug test, the same offense that reportedly resulted in a one-game suspension against Auburn last October; the latest failure was reportedly his third, making him permanently ineligible per team policy. The same day he was dismissed, Mathieu visited McNeese State, an FCS school in Lake Charles, La., about a two-hour drive from Baton Rouge and three hours from New Orleans, Mathieu's hometown. By dropping into a lower division, he would likely be eligible to play immediately this fall.
Still, LSU coach Les Miles seemed to leave the door open to a potential return in 2013 if Mathieu remained enrolled at LSU and maintained academic eligibility, telling reporters earlier this week, "I am not in any way speculating. He will not be on this football team this year. I guarantee it. That's a fact. I have no idea beyond that." An LSU spokesman denied rumors that Miles met with Mathieu on Tuesday night.
Assuming he's still eligible under standard NCAA rules (there's no indication he is not), Mathieu has two years of eligibility remaining if and when he returns to school. But he'll also be eligible for the 2013 draft next spring, where scouts had sized him up as a probable first or second-round pick, depending on how concerned they are about his less-than-ideal size (he's listed at 5-foot-9, 176 pounds) and man-to-man cover skills. Although he may still be picked in a later round, a year out of football altogether will force him to fend off questions about rust and the dreaded "character risk" label.
As a sophomore in 2011, Mathieu finished as the leading tackler for the No. 2 defense in the nation in both yards and points allowed, including 7.5 tackles for loss, and forced more takeaways — two interceptions, six fumbles — than anyone else on a team that finished second in the nation in turnover margin. He was also fourth nationally in punt return yards, and led the nation with four non-offensive touchdowns. In December, he came in fifth in Heisman voting, won the Bednarik Award as the best defensive player in the nation and was voted a unanimous All-American by every major outlet.
As a true freshman in 2010, Mathieu recorded 57 tackles, 8.5 of them for loss, and generated seven turnovers (five forced fumbles, two interceptions) despite starting just one game. Multiple outlets tabbed him as a Freshman All-American, and he closed the season by being voted Most Valuable Player in the Cotton Bowl.