When looking back at some of the great players to come through LSU, it’s hard not to bring up Tyrann Mathieu.
Mathieu, or “The Honey Badger,” as he was nicknamed during his time with the Tigers, reflected on his time in Baton Rouge, La., with ESPN Radio 1450 on Thursday.
Though the Bednarik Award winner certainly endured his struggles in college, he looked back at his time at LSU as solely a positive experience.
“It was never any blood blood; I was just a kid that didn’t understand the opportunity that I had,” Mathieu said. “I thought smoking weed was OK. I wasn’t this dysfunctional guy causing hell. A lot of the relationships I had, I still have, with trainers, Coach (Les) Miles, different guys on staff and in administration … I had issues to correct. Other than that, my time at LSU was great, second to none.”
Mathieu overcame those off-the-field issues to eventually be drafted in the third round of the 2013 NFL Draft and find a role with the Arizona Cardinals.
Still, the defensive back maintains his close ties with his alma mater, and opened up about Miles and the questions concerning his job security heading into next season.
“I don’t know why people are so hard on Coach Miles,” Mathieu said. “He’s a winner. He truly cares about his players. He wants them to succeed not only on football field but off it. He does a great job. Maybe it’s time to start holding the players more accountable.
“Les Miles goes a great job. He’s a great recruiter. As long as he keeps that going, he’ll be alright and have the opportunity to play for another championship.”
Mathieu also touched on an array of other subjects, including some of the recent turnover on the Tigers’ coaching staff.
Running backs coach Frank Wilson, who recruited Mathieu while he was on Tennessee’s coaching staff, left LSU to accept the head coaching job at University of Texas at San Antonio . In his place is Jabbar Juluke, who Mathieu also has a longstanding relationship with.
“Man, I was so excited for (Wilson),” he said. “The first camp I went to was Tennessee’s camp when he was running backs coach there. I wanted to go to Tennessee so bad because of Frank. I didn’t even think about LSU at this point just because of Coach Frank. The experiences people have with him and relationships he builds with players over time — even guys that don’t commit to LSU, he still holds relationships with.
“I’m so excited for (Juluke). He’s a good football mind. Growing up playing park ball, Coach Juluke would come around to poach you, but it wasn’t just about football; it’s about life as well. I always wanted him to be my coach at St. Augustine, but it never worked out … He’s going to do a great job, especially with Leonard (Fournette), with the life part of it.”
Speaking of Fournette, Mathieu recently spent time with the star running back, evident by their social media accounts.
However, much of the focus was not on the football field.
Instead, Fournette and Mathieu concentrate on their family lives, which has the former LSU star a bit envious of the current one.
“Me and Leonard don’t talk about football at all. We talk about our kids,” Mathieu said. “I admire him so much. He’s so much different than me in a sense that I truly believe he’s stronger than I was at that stage. I tell him all the time how proud I am of him. He still has that chip on his shoulder. A young guy like that with a chip on his shoulder — you can’t do nothing but root for that type of person.”