Now, Tyrann Mathieu is just another athlete who allowed his hubris to overrule his good sense. He has gone from superstar with the world at his doorstep to a young man whose inner demons could savage him the rest of his life. LSU's decision to kick Mathieu off the football team was proper, but seems more grave than others we read about every few days. This time, an apprentice hero fell and fell hard. Mathieu's skill on the football field helped generate a feel-good myth of The Honey Badger, who fears nothing and takes what he wants. A You Tube video of a honey badger devouring a poisonous snake and invading a beehive went viral. Mike Wolf of TV's "American Pickers" once said his own aggressive salvaging of junken treasure made him the "Honey Badger of Junk." Barnes & Noble features a half-dozen titles with "Honey Badger" somewhere in the title. T-shirts, bar drinks and songs all came from the Honey Badger phenomenon. And all because of a 5-9, 185-pound little-known recruit whose scholarship offer from LSU was the only Division I offer he received.
It is sad when the hype consumes the head. Examples abound where success gives some ill-equipped young athlete a false sense of his or her own value. They become bulletproof. They can get away with anything because everyone loves them. LSU saw the vulnerability and even assigned a "minder" to monitor Mathieu's off-the-field activities and make sure he walked the straight-and-narrow. Nothing worked.
The failing of multiple drug tests is like failing an IQ test. The NCAA is diligent, you know the test is coming, and for a player to continue to flaunt the rules is stupid. Mathieu had given us hints that skeletons were lurking in his closet, most recently at LSU's football Media Day when he appeared uncharacteristically subdued. That suggests he knew about the upcoming penalties at that time, although, if so, it does not explain why LSU allowed him to appear.
Mathieu's absence will affect LSU's chances to justify their early high ranking. Anytime a team loses a major playmaker, it hurts, especially a team with little experience in the secondary. Mathieu will transfer in the next week or so to a school in the Football Championship Subdivision, what we used to call Division I-AA, that allows immediate eligibility, and we will read about his exploits against such powers as McMurray or Central Arkansas. Ryan Perriloux took that route. So did Cecil Collins. But it was never the same for them.
by Jim W. Miller
His new book, "Where the Water Kept Rising," is now available in local bookstores and at his website: www.JWMillerSports.com
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