By Scott Rabalais
September 14, 2012
And so we come to this place on the ever-shifting Tyrann Mathieu landscape.
Since Mathieu’s dismissal from the LSU football team last month, the story has gone from where will he transfer (he didn’t) to where will he rehab (Houston, with John Lucas) to will he return to school at LSU (he has, just in time to beat Wednesday’s fall semester drop/add deadline).
Now the story levels out until we reach the next plateau, which is: Will the Honey Badger play football for LSU again?
Mathieu’s mother said Monday football isn’t the focus right now, and it shouldn’t be. Right now. But eventually, that will become the overwhelming question.
Variations on the theme include whether it’s possible for Mathieu to play for LSU again. That’s not cast in concrete since no one at LSU is at liberty to say what he did, only that he is ineligible to play for the Tigers this season. Still, Mathieu’s exile certainly mirrors a one-year loss of playing privileges as outlined by LSU’s substance abuse policy for a three-time offender.
Under those circumstances, that doesn’t mean he can’t eventually come back if he stays out of trouble. Les Miles then could be the Supreme Court of this little melodrama and render a decision on whether the Honey Badger is allowed to play for LSU again.
If Miles has made up his mind on that subject, he wasn’t saying Monday.
“I think he is making some quality decisions for himself,” Miles said. “I believe that he has really made some difficult decisions for himself that will better him as he goes forward. We certainly wish him the very best.”
The question ultimately becomes whether Miles thinks Mathieu’s return is what is best for his football team.
As a player, Mathieu’s worth is without question. He’s like a big-play artist when donning helmet and pads, the football field his 360-by-160-foot canvas.
But does his ability to be a distraction outweigh his ability to force turnovers and score touchdowns? Not according to the words of Eric Reid, LSU’s straight-arrow free safety who ran into Mathieu between classes Tuesday.
“I can’t wait until he comes back,” said Reid, who, based on his lofty NFL draft prospects, may not be here waiting for Mathieu’s return next fall.
Cornerback Tharold Simon sounded a similar note.
“The things I want to see from him are that he matures a lot more, becomes a better person,” said Simon, who like Mathieu was suspended for the Auburn game last year. “I’ve seen that already. He hit me up today to tell me he was in class. It was a good thing that he made that decision.”
Clearly a wide gulf separates the first day of Mathieu’s fresh start at LSU to the first game of the 2013 season. There is as much room for personal growth as there is for temptation and trouble.
But for LSU, betting on Mathieu to get his life in order is worth the gamble — for the program as much as himself.