When the Arizona Cardinals selected Tyrann Mathieu in the third round of the 2013 NFL Draft, it was not a surprise to the former LSU Tiger. On Thursday, the Cardinals introduced Mathieu to the media and he revealed why it wasn't surprising. "I was excited," he said. "Patrick (Peterson) told me about this back in November, December, that he was going to make me an Arizona Cardinal."
The risk of drafting Mathieu has been well documented. He was a Hesiman candidate in 2011, making electrifying plays on defense and special teams for LSU. A year later, he found himself kicked off the team for off the field issues, which included drug problems. He said he failed as many as 10 drug tests.
Peterson, a former LSU teammate of Mathieu, took him on as a sort of project. Better said would be he took him in as family. Mathieu has been living with Peterson's parents. Mathieu since has turned things around. He has been clean for months and is willing to be drug tested weekly, if that is what it takes for him to be able to continue playing football.
Peterson will continue to be an important part of Mathieu's success.
Mathieu called Peterson "probably as important" as his girlfriend. "He's probably going to be everywhere with me, walking around everywhere with me," he explained. "I'm just going to follow Patrick's routine."
That wouldn't be a bad idea, considering that Peterson has made himself known in the league, earning a Pro Bowl berth in each of his two seasons as a professional.
However, the issues of his past will not just go away. He will be asked regularly about his past and the drug use.
He is open about his past. he sounds like a young man that has matured. "I've been extremely honest," he said when asked about moving forward and worrying about what happened. "Everything has been out there on the table, so I don't really have anything to hold back on. I'm just ready to play football."
What does he have to do to make those questions go away?
"I think just me doing what I have to do, just letting my actions speak for themselves," he elaborated. "I think that's pretty much how everything's going to come to a hold, so I'm looking forward to it. I definitely have a long journey in front of me. There's definitely going to be challenges. I think I'm prepared for it and I'm ready for it.
"I think my actions the last six months have proven that I'm on the right track. I think I have my head on straight. I'm just going forward and going to surround myself with positive people and have a great support staff, which I know the Cardinals are going to supply me with."
Despite the attention he is getting for what he did both on and off the field while in college, he says exactly what you want to hear from a young player. "I'm grateful and I'm blessed to be an Arizona Cardinal," he said. "I'm going to put my best foot forward, take in as much as I can, learn from the older guys and just try to become a to become a true professional."
A true professional.
The Cardinals have some great players to show him the way. He already has Peterson, who is more or less a brother, but also on the defensive side of the ball are players Calais Campbell, Lorenzo Alexander and Yeremiah Bell. Then you have Larry Fitzgerald, who is the personification of being a true professional. It really is as perfect a situation as it could be.
But what Mathieu wants to do now is just focus on playing football. He is confident in his ability and just wants to get on the field. He has something to prove completely unrelated to his off the field behavior. At 5-9, he is considered undersized and not quite fast enough to play in the league. He will also be playing a new position.
A cornerback in college, he will be moving to safety, something he thinks "is a challenge." He has played the, position before, but only a few games. I won't say I'm comfortable with it, but it's something I'm willing to do," he told reporters. "If Coach believes in me to be back there making checks and making calls, I feel like I'm the guy to do it for him."
Known for a long time as the Honey Badger, Mathieu is ready to turn the page. He knows people will call him that, but doesn't want to focus on it because of the dark times he associates with it. "For me, going forward, I want people to recognize me as Tyrann Mathieu," he said.
The line I liked most from the press conference was when he talked about his on-field play. Setting aside the position, the speed, the size, he is confident and focuses on this, "Just go get the ball."
That's what he did at LSU. He just made football plays.
He'll get his chance on defense. He likely will not in the punt return game. When asked if he would take away some of Peterson's returns, he was quite certain. "I don't think he's going to give it to me," he said.
Just go get the ball.
That's a pretty simple concept.
If Mathieu goes and does that and does not proverbially drop it, good things will find him. He has a lot of people and an entire organization rooting for him.
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