When I woke up this morning I saw the news that former LSU star Tyrann Mathieu intended to declare for the NFL draft in April.
I was saddened because although I do not know him personally, his story hits close to home. Mathieu garnered national attention after being a finalist for the Heisman Trophy and earning the nickname "honey badger".
He showed an affinity for causing turnovers at LSU. Now, he has made his biggest turnover of all. Declaring for the draft is another bad decision in a long line of bad decisions.
His football seemed bright until LSU announced that he had been dismissed from the team in early August for violations of team rules. At this point in time, Mathieu had many options and plenty of time to rehab himself and his image before taking his talents to the NFL. He could have transferred to another D-1 school and sat out a season or transferred to a lower division and played this season.
Mathieu chose door No. 3, which was to check himself into a substance abuse rehab center. This was a good move for him personally—and for his image. It is not clear how long he was in the program, but he did re-enroll at LSU to start classes for this 2012 school year.
Mathieu appeared to be picking up the pieces; returning to LSU next season appeared to be a possibility. Then in October he was arrested on marijuana charges, along with former teammate Jordan Jefferson. I am not an expert in drug rehab, but I have seen a few close friends and family members "fall off the wagon." From my experience I believed that returning to Baton Rouge for school was a bad idea for Mathieu. He needed to stay in rehab longer, leave LSU and get in a new environment to start over.
Now, Tyrann Mathieu has announced he will be forgoing his remaining college eligibility and entering the NFL draft.
This may prove to be his worst decision of all. He most likely will not be drafted by an NFL team, unless it is a very late pick and the team won't be on the hook for a lot of money.
Mathieu was already an undersized corner with average speed and coverage abilities. Then add in the facts that he was kicked off the LSU football team for drugs violations in August and subsequently arrested on drug charges in October.
If you were a NFL general manager, would you take a chance on him? Not likely.
The NFL offers more free time and access to all your vices and the money to afford them. Every year we hear stories of professional athletes without a documented history of substance abuse struggle with addiction. Josh Hamilton, Stanley Wilson, Barret Robbins Daryl Strawberry, Dwight Gooden and the list goes on and on.
Declaring for the draft appears to be a way for Mathieu to escape the problems plaguing him in college, but in all likelihood things will get worse before they get better. How will he deal with the disappointment of going undrafted or being drafted late? How will he deal with an injury or being cut?
How is a kid who obviously cannot handle staying sober in college supposed to make it in the NFL?
In no way am I saying Mathieu is not worthy of a second chance and should never be picked by an NFL team. I am saying he needs to go back to rehab and get his life together, then go play football in college for a season (not near LSU) and only then declare for the draft.
By doing so, he would give himself the best chance to succeed personally and professionally. I have seen teammates and friends struggle with the disease of addiction and the toll it takes on them physically, emotionally and financially. If you are not mentally ready to handle the life associated with professional sports, you are a tragedy waiting to happen.
The toughest things for professional athletes to do is admit they have a problem. They are physically strong and can do things athletically that most men can only dream about. The thought of not being able to control a problem alone is unfathomable. Mathieu must admit to himself he has a problem and that he must make wholesale changes to be successful.
Everybody loves a comeback story, a story of personal triumph, so I wish Mathieu well. But, as it stands right now, after a year out of football coupled with his off-the-field issues, Mathieu would be fighting for a spot on an NFL roster.
I hope I am wrong, but the most likely ending for the Tyrann Mathieu story will be something like Onterrio Smith (via tightend.blogspot.com): a young man with an abundance of talent who loses his way and his dream of football glory.
Do you see any way Tyrann Mathieu can be successful in the NFL right now?