Tyrann Mathieu may be the most-discussed prospect in next week’s NFL draft, which is unusual for a guy who won’t be a first-round pick. But Mathieu is a unique case of a player so talented he was a Heisman Trophy finalist as a cornerback at LSU, and yet so troubled that teams may wonder whether he cares enough to commit himself to football.
A lengthy ESPN the Magazine profile of Mathieu answers some questions and raises others, but the portion that will likely be of most interest to NFL teams is a brief description of Mathieu’s mindset heading into the last game of his college career: The BCS National Championship Game in January of 2012.
According to the profile, Mathieu was so disinterested leading up to that game that he spent 14 hours a day sleeping in the team hotel, and he told his girlfriend, “I don’t even want to play.”
Mathieu did play, in a game LSU lost to Alabama. He still hasn’t played in a football game since then, having been kicked off the team for multiple failed drug tests. Mathieu is quoted at length talking about the process of quitting marijuana, although NFL teams may not be thrilled with the fact that Mathieu says he still chews tobacco “to take the edge off.”
Some team is going to draft Mathieu next week, with most projections having him going in the third or fourth round. That team will need to be convinced that he’s totally committed to football, and not the kind of guy who wouldn’t even want to play in the biggest game of his life.