Tyrann Mathieu was back in the LSU indoor football practice facility Wednesday.
He was working out in a shirt with the letters LSU written on the front of it and his familiar No. 7 on the back.
He was showing the quickness, footwork and athleticism that made him an All-America cornerback for the Tigers in 2011 before he was kicked off the team last August because of a failed drug test.
Mathieu was among nearly 30 former LSU players who participated in Pro Day to audition for prospective NFL employers. But for Mathieu, this day was more about saying goodbye to LSU in a more satisfactory way than his dismissal from the team was.
After all he skipped all the preliminaries, satisfied with his performance in them at the NFL Combine last month, and participated only in the defensive back and special teams drills.
“You just want to get back around your old teammates,” Mathieu said. “I wasn’t able to play with those guys this year.
“We’ve got a whole lot of good memories together in Tiger Stadium.
“Just to line up one last time with those guys and wear No. 7 meant everything to me.”
Mathieu dreamed of wearing No. 7 again next season even though no one from LSU ever publicly indicated that was even a consideration. But any lingering doubt about the end of his Tigers career came when he was arrested on a misdemeanor drug charge in October, then forfeited his final two years of eligibility by hiring an agent.
“He made a mistake,” safety Eric Reid said. “He knows it. Everybody knows it. That’s what we do as human beings. He had to pay a price, and he did that. He lost a season. I can honestly say that he learned from it.
“He’s ready and eager to get back on the field. He’s worked very hard to get back in shape. Everybody knows he’s an explosive player, and I think he showed that today.”
Mathieu certainly showed no signs of rust as New Orleans Saints secondary coach Wesley McGriff and assistant secondary coach Andre Curtis put the defensive backs through drills.
Lined up with Mathieu were classmates Reid and Tharold Simon, reuniting a familiar group from 2010 and 2011 that didn’t get to play one down together in 2012, thanks to Mathieu’s transgression.
“It makes me sad to think that Tyrann and Tharold and Eric all started as true freshmen in the Cotton Bowl and three short years later they’re NFL ready,” Tigers coach Les Miles said. “Certainly we wish (Mathieu) well.
“He’s an All-American from LSU. It’s fitting that he try out for the NFL in this facility.”
Though the loss of Mathieu contributed to the 2012 team’s descent from the preseason No. 1 team in the country to a unit that completed a disappointing 10-3 season with a loss in the Chick-fil-A Bowl, he was a Tiger in good standing again for a day.
“It felt good to have Tyrann back in the locker room,” tackle Josh Dworaczyk said. “It was great that he could come back to LSU and could represent himself and his school.”
NFL teams are trying to figure out how to factor Mathieu’s off-the-field shortcomings into his dynamic playmaking ability to produce one useful grade going into the draft next month.
“I think they know everything already,” Mathieu said. “They want you to be open and honest with them, and that was the biggest thing for me.
“I know I made some mistakes this past year, but I think when it comes to football I’m a playmaker and just a guy who wants to play hard for his teammates. I think back at LSU I was a true leader for my teammates.”
His former coach vouched for that.
“I tell (NFL teams) he’s a great teammate,” Miles said. “He’s a big-time player. He will commit to what your culture is and do it your way. He will have a natural, intuitive sense for big plays. ... He’ll make somebody’s NFL roster a lot better.”
Mathieu reflected on his lost season.
“It was miserable. It was depressing,” Mathieu said. “I didn’t have football.”
He said he’s “extremely confident” he will stay clean as he has “going on five months.”
“I’m still working on it every day,” Mathieu said. “It’s a process, but I’m getting stronger and stronger every day.”
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