For some potential NFL prospects, hard work on the field isn’t all that separates a first-round pick from an undrafted free agent.
Mathieu was a repeat offender and his transgressions were too much for LSU head coach Les Miles. Will they be too much for NFL talent evaluators?
The Senior Bowl is taking place on Saturday, Jan. 26, in Mobile, Ala., and the week leading up to the game is one of the prime evaluation times for NFL scouts and executives to gauge talent and interview potential NFL players.
Mathieu is just a junior, but he has been in Mobile this week talking with NFL teams. He’s there to prove he is a changed man.
Per Adam H. Beasley of The Miami Herald, Mathieu feels honesty will be the best policy in the coming months:
I'm healthy. Everything's in my past. I'm just going to let that stay there and just try to move forward and keep bettering myself.
I think honesty is going to be my best friend in the next few months. I'm just trying to be honest and as open as possible, look those guys look in my eyes and let those guys know I'm speaking the truth.
The interview process for prospects is involved and detailed. NFL teams want to know what they will be getting in return for a huge investment of time and money.
Mathieu’s presence at the Senior Bowl is a good sign. The junior won’t be playing in the game, but his willingness to travel to Mobile during the week and talk with NFL personnel shows a desire to open up and prove he won’t be such a high-risk proposition in the NFL.
Mathieu was a 2011 Heisman finalist, recording four interceptions and 11 forced fumbles in his two years at LSU. His return skills made him one of the most intriguing players to be draft-eligible this year.
Despite Mathieu’s diminutive stature for a defensive back (5’9”), he would have likely garnered first-round consideration in this year’s draft if not for his off-field struggles. He’s an electric player who will still force some NFL teams to consider taking a chance on him in the draft.
According to Bart Hubbuch of the New York Post, the Jets, Dolphins, Redskins and “several other teams” have had contact with Mathieu. While that’s not at all surprising, it still gives an indication that, with a good offseason of workouts and positive interviews, Mathieu will move his way up the draft board.