Tyrann Mathieu's adoptive parents said Monday that the All-America cornerback plans to enroll in LSU for the fall semester Tuesday, but his football future has yet to be determined.
Tyrone and Sheila Mathieu, who raised and adopted Tyrann in New Orleans, told The Advocate in separate interviews that their son was headed back to school nearly a month after he was kicked off the football team and lost his scholarship reportedly because of multiple failed drug tests.
Mathieu, a Heisman Trophy finalist a year ago, checked into a drug treatment program run by former NBA star John Lucas in Houston shortly after his dismissal from the team. Mrs. Mathieu said Lucas was scheduled to accompany Tyrann on the trip from Houston to Baton Rouge on Monday night. The deadline to enroll for the fall semester was originally last Wednesday, but was pushed back to this Wednesday after the university was closed for three days last week due to Hurricane Isaac.
"From the beginning we wanted him focused on himself first and on his academics next," Mrs. Mathieu said. "We have decided with Mr. Lucas that Tyrann is at the point in the process where he's ready to go back to school and resume his studies. Mr. Lucas will continue to treat Tyrann."
Mrs. Mathieu said that Tyrann and Lucas will stay in contact over the phone and through email and "meet physically from time to time."
She said Lucas gave his approval to Tyrann returning to school and the family then discussed it and determined that enrolling at LSU was the proper move.
"Tyrann decided that he wanted to take the program and Tyrann decided that going back to school was the best thing for him," she said. "My husband and supported him as usual."
Lucas, whose stellar NBA career was shortened due to drug addiction, runs a wellness and aftercare program that helps others overcome their addictions.
Mathieu has two years of football eligibility remaining but will not play football this season. LSU has said approximately 20 schools asked for permission to speak with Mathieu about transferring and he visited McNeese State just hours after being dismissed from the team.
Shortly thereafter, however, Mathieu turned his attention away from football and entered Lucas' program, which he has remained in for the last three weeks.
Tigers coach Les Miles has said he will remain supportive of Mathieu, but won't speculate on the future. The university has been non-committal as to whether Mathieu could re-join the football program in 2013.
"Football is not something we're worried about at this point," Mrs. Mathieu said. "We're going to continue to talk to Mr. Lucas."
Mathieu had a meteoric rise to national prominence during his two seasons with the Tigers. No taller than 5-foot-9 he was a mid-level recruit coming out of St. Augustine High School but played as a cornerback and nickelback in all 13 games as a true freshman in 2010. He led the Southeastern Conference and was fifth nationally with five forced fumbles and he tied for the conference lead with three fumble recoveries.
His penchant for making big plays stood out as he had 8.5 tackles for loss, 4.5 sacks and two interceptions. He received the Defensive Most Outstanding Player Award for his performance during the Tigers' Cotton Bowl victory against Texas A&M. Mathieu had seven tackles, one for loss, forced two fumbles, recovered one, and had an interception, sack and pass breakup.
During the offseason before his sophomore season Mathieu adopted jersey No. 7 that All-America cornerback Patrick Peterson had worn the year before and set about becoming a star in his own right.
He immediately had an impact as he forced a fumble and ran the ball into the end zone on punt coverage to jump-start LSU's 40-27 nationally televised victory against preseason No. 3 Oregon in the season opener.
The highlight-making plays continued on almost a weekly basis and soon he was a national phenomenon, nicknamed "The Honey Badger" after a small, feisty animal that "takes what he wants" as demonstarted in a popular YouTube video.
But the first public sign of looming trouble surfaced when Mathieu and two teammates were suspended for a mid-season game against Auburn, reportedly for a failed drug test. When Mathieu returned his big play-making ability was absent for three games before returning emphatically.
In the regular-season finale, a 41-17 victory against Arkansas that clinched the SEC West title, he returned a punt 92 yards for a touchdown, helping LSU overcome an early 14-0 deficit. He also started and played every defensive snap at safety in place of injured Eric Reid and made eight tackles, forced two fumbles and recovered one.
A week later Mathieu again helped rescue the slow-starting Tigers, returning a punt 62 yards for a touchdown, recovering a fumble and earning MVP honors as LSU defeated Georgia 42-10 in the SEC Championship. That performance sent the Tigers to the BCS Championship Game and Mathieu to New York as one of five finalists for the prestigious Heisman Trophy, a virtually unheard of honor for a sophomore or a defensive player, let alone both.
Though Mathieu, who also received the Bednarik Award as the best defensive player in the country, and LSU finished the season on a sour note with a 21-0 loss to Alabama in the title game, both were widely lauded as this season approached.
The Tigers were ranked No. 1 in the coaches preseason poll and Mathieu was being touted for more national honors even as LSU discreetly withheld him from interviews throughout the summer.
When Mathieu was abruptly dismissed from the team Aug. 10, the respect for his impact was demonstrated as the Associated Press allowed a re-vote on its preseason poll and the Tigers dropped from No. 1 to No. 3.
While Mathieu worked with Lucas on getting his life in order, his former teammates went about preparing for life without him. LSU began the season with a 41-14 victory against North Texas last Saturday in Tiger Stadium. Though the Tigers' gave up touchdown passes of 80 and 15 yards, his replacements on defense - true freshman Jalen Mills and redshirt freshman Jalen Collins - played well.
Sophomore wide receiver Odell Beckham Jr. assumed Mathieu's role as punt returner and had a 70-yard runback for a touchdown.
Mathieu's former teammates are preparing to play Washington on Saturday night in Tiger Stadium as he apparently returns to the classroom - and the Honey Badger remains in hibernation.
Emmert to attend game
NCAA President Mark Emmert said in an email Monday that he plans to attend Saturday's LSU-Washington game.
Emmert served as LSU's chancellor from 1999-2004 before becoming president at Washington, where he earned his bachelor's degree in 1975. The Tacoma, Wash., native became NCAA President in 2010.
Hilliard earns honor
Sophomore running back Kenny Hilliard was named Louisiana Offensive Player of the Week on Monday by the Louisiana Sports Writers Association.
Hilliard rushed for a career high 141 yards and two touchdowns on 13 carries in a 41-14 win Saturday over North Texas. He and Alfred Blue (16 carries, 123 yards) became the first pair of LSU backs to run for 100 yards in a season opener since Dalton Hilliard (Kenny's uncle) and Garry James did it against Oregon State in 1982.
(Advocate sportswriter Scott Rabalis contributed to this report.)