There was a time when Tyrann Mathieu seemed destined to be the next big thing, even though he's only 5'9".
Mathieu, who earned the nickname "The Honey Badger" because of his diminutive size and tenacious play, was one of college football's biggest playmakers in 2011.
As a sophomore at LSU, Mathieu racked up 76 tackles, intercepted two passes, tallied 1.5 sacks and forced six fumbles. He recovered four of those fumbles, returning two for touchdowns.
Mathieu was also one of college football's most dangerous return men, averaging over 15.5 yards a punt return and finding the end zone twice.
The accolades poured in. First-team All-SEC. Consensus All-American. Winner of the Bednarik award as college football's top defensive player. Heisman Trophy finalist.
The sky seemed to be the limit for Mathieu, but then disaster struck.
Numerous violations of team rules resulting from Mathieu's use of marijuana led to his dismissal from the Tigers before he played a down as a junior. Mathieu appeared to be headed towards being a cautionary tale rather than a triumphant one.
Now, however, it looks like "The Honey Badger" is back on the prowl.
Mathieu entered rehab and cleaned up his act with the help of former LSU teammate (and current Arizona Cardinals cornerback) Patrick Peterson. As Adam Schein of NFL.com reports, Peterson went so far as to vouch for Mathieu prior to the 2013 NFL draft.
General manager Steve Keim and the Cardinals rolled the dice on Mathieu in the third round in April. Not only are Peterson and Mathieu now teammates again, but the Cardinals appear to have hit the jackpot.
Mathieu has been one of the stars of training camp, notching a sack in his first preseason game and starting at free safety in the second. Mathieu has drawn raves from the Arizona coaches and front office, with Keim stating that "I think the NFL is going to see that Tyrann is the real deal."
If early returns (pardon the pun) are any indication, it certainly looks like he is.