Last August, some news came out of Baton Rouge, Louisiana that changed college football: Tyrann Mathieu was being permanently kicked off LSU's football team. Seven long months later, Mathieu has been arguably the biggest winner of the NFL Draft process.
After choosing not to transfer to another Division-I school to play football, which would have required him sitting out a season, Mathieu dropped out of LSU altogether and focused on getting his life together.
A few months ago, with Matieu's status as a potential NFL player still up in the air, a lot of people had written him off. Maybe he would be picked up in the last round, or signed as an undrafted free agent, but his value was extremely low.
Nobody has ever questioned Mathieu's talent. Although he isn't overly polished as a cornerback, his athleticism and playmaking ability is outstanding.
In 2011 he was named a Chuck Bednarik finalist as one of the nation's best defensive players, and surprisingly took home the award.
Mathieu is an outstanding kick and punt returner. With the ball in his hands, there is nobody as dangerous as the "Honey Badger".
But his off-field issues seemed to be too much. With the college football season going on without him, Mathieu got somewhat pushed to the background. As the draft process began, it became apparent that the "Honey Badger" hadn't lost a step as he performed well at the combine, looking great in drills and putting up some solid numbers.
He ran a 4.50 40-yard dash, had a 4.14 shuttle, and a 34-inch vertical. Considering he hadn't played for a year, those numbers are impressive, and his effortless session with position drills were encouraging.
But most encouraging has been how Mathieu has handled everything off the field. He has been praised for his demeanor and attitude in interviews, and truly looks like he is ready to move on from his past.
After the combine, where he was pressed by teams and media members and responded well, he really thrust himself back in the discussion to get drafted before the last round or two.
Nobody questions his talent. He could be a big-time playmaker in the draft, even if he doesn't have the potential to be a No. 1 cornerback in the NFL.
He could find a role as a nickel corner and be a team's primary returner, which could make him worthy of a third-round selection. His ceiling is incredibly high.
But teams will obviously be concerned by his off-field issues, although they have ample time to meet with him before the draft and get to know him better.
His maturity and dependability are still concerns, although he couldn't of handled these past few months any better. He seems truly remorseful for his past, and was visibly broken up about having to be away from football for a season.
Just a few months ago Mathieu was nothing more than a cautionary tale. He was in danger of becoming an afterthought. But after a strong combine workout and impressive interview circuit, Mathieu has really turned things around. He has worked himself into the discussion with some of the better cornerbacks in the draft, and it wouldn't be a huge shock if he came off the board in the third round.
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