Tyrann Mathieu appears headed to the NFL

It appears the next stop for former LSU defensive back Tyrann Mathieu will be the NFL.

Mathieu reportedly issued a statement Thursday saying he will enter the NFL draft next April, which was the next logical step in his dormant football career.

He was kicked off the LSU team Aug. 10, reportedly for multiple failed drug tests, and he ran into more trouble last month when he and three former teammates were arrested on drug charges in Baton Rouge.

Mathieu, a Heisman Trophy finalist and All-America defensive back as a sophomore last season, is enrolled at LSU but has no future with the Tigers even though he potentially has two years of NCAA eligibility remaining.

“I am sorry that I was not able to complete my journey at LSU, but I will always support LSU in any way I can,” Mathieu was quoted by ESPN.com as saying in his statement. “To my teammates, you are my brothers. You have kept me going. I will do my best to make you all proud of me.”

After being kicked off the team, Mathieu spent a few weeks at a drug treatment center in Houston run by former NBA player John Lucas.

Mathieu bypassed an opportunity to play for a lower-classification college program. LSU 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 Tigers. In early September, Mathieu enrolled at LSU for the fall semester.

“I am committed to tackling my personal issues and will work to better myself every day as a man first and only then as a football player,” ESPN quoted Mathieu as saying in the statement. “I will always consider myself an LSU Tiger.”

Mathieu, a largely overlooked recruit coming out of St. Augustine High School in New Orleans, had two remarkable seasons at LSU. Just 5-foot-9, he excelled in pass coverage, as a pass rusher and as a punt returner.

As a true freshman two years ago, he led the Southeastern Conference and was fifth nationally with five forced fumbles and tied for the conference lead with three fumble recoveries. Mathieu received the Defensive Most Outstanding Player Award for his performance in LSU’s Cotton Bowl victory against Texas A&M after making seven tackles (one for loss), forcing two fumbles, recovering one and getting an interception, sack and pass breakup.

Last season, he forced and recovered a fumble for a touchdown in a season-opening victory against Oregon, returned a fumble for a touchdown in a victory against Kentucky and triggered victories against Arkansas in the regular-season finale and Georgia in the SEC Championship game with punt returns for touchdowns.

Though Mathieu’s height and off-the-field troubles likely will prevent him from being a high draft choice, his big-play ability and versatility will no doubt still make him attractive to NFL teams if he stays out of trouble.

Mathieu’s adoptive father, Tyrone, said he and his wife were “shocked” to learn of Tyrann’s announcement, though he said Tyrann had been leaning toward turning pro.

“We always talk about the NFL,” Tyrone Mathieu said. “That’s his dream.”

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