Here’s hoping Honey Badger does carePublished 12:00am Sunday, August 12, 2012
There was no shortage of snarky tweets on my Twitter feed early Friday afternoon.
“Honey Badger really doesn’t care,” and other similar remarks were the norm after it was announced that Heisman finalist and LSU cornerback Tyrann Mathieu had been kicked off the team.
LSU head coach Les Miles said Mathieu not only violated team policy, but school policy as well. Reports later surfaced that Mathieu had failed yet another drug test — remember, he was suspended for last season’s matchup against Auburn because of a failed drug test.
Whatever the case, the Tigers’ electrifying kick returner is no longer going to be fielding punts and kickoffs, which is a huge blow for LSU as it vies for a national championship this fall.
Mathieu has two years of eligibility remaining, but there are questions about how soon he would be able to play, even if he goes from an FBS school to an FCS school.
The fall for the Honey Badger is long and difficult after such a promising season last year. Mathieu, if you recall, provided the spark in the SEC championship game that helped LSU overcome a 10-7 halftime deficit against Georgia to claim the conference crown. The performance earned him a trip to New York City for the Heisman Trophy selection ceremony and let the world know he was one of college football’s most dynamic players.
It’s easy to cast stones and sarcastically mock Mathieu for his mistake, but some context is needed here. Mathieu’s father is currently in the Louisiana State Penitentiary for murder, while his mother left him with an aunt and uncle to raise him.
While that’s certainly not an excuse for bad behavior, it’s also understandable that people who come from such a rough upbringing might turn to drugs as a means of escape. And once you start down that road and compromise once, it only gets easier from there.
All that said, Mathieu is not without options here. He can transfer and still continue his college football career. More importantly, there are programs available to help him with any drug- or life-related issues.
At the very least, Mathieu has the potential to be a good NFL return man and make decent money. But whether or not he reaches that potential — or exceeds it — is all on him. He can choose to get help, choose to do what it takes to keep his college football career going and put in the work necessary to make it to the league.
Or, he can choose to do none of those things, and let the chips fall as they may. It wouldn’t be the first time a promising young athlete wasted a chance at good money and a good football career because of poor choices. If Mathieu doesn’t turn things around, though, he’s going to be added to that long list.
For his sake, let’s hope the Honey Badger does indeed care.
Michael Kerekes is the sports editor of The Natchez Democrat. He can be reached at 601-445-3632 or firstname.lastname@example.org.