LSU's Mathieu humbled by suspension
Tyrann Mathieu showed up at LSU's practice center wearing an Arizona Cardinals T-shirt with Patrick Peterson's name and number on it.
Peterson, who was a mentor to Mathieu when the two played together for the Tigers last season, never got in trouble at LSU.
Mathieu, speaking on Monday for the first time since his one-game suspension last month for violating the team's drug policy, said he understands now how he let his teammates down, and that he won't let it happen again.
''I have to grow up fast in this business,'' said Mathieu, who this season began wearing the No. 7 that Peterson wore at LSU. ''It definitely humbled me off the field. I think you have to go through things to see the bigger picture ... My teammates were there for me and my coaches were there for me, so it was really about me trying to stay focused on the things that mean the most to me and that's being a student at LSU and wearing those colors every Saturday.''
Mathieu has played in recent victories over Alabama and Western Kentucky since being forced to watch LSU's Oct. 22 triumph over Auburn on television at home. However, LSU head coach Les Miles made Mathieu off-limits for interviews from the time of his suspension until this week.
Mathieu was a media sensation during LSU's first seven games this season, when he forced four fumbles, recovering three and returning two for scores. He also had two interceptions and 1 1/2 sacks before being suspended along with running back Spencer Ware and reserve cornerback Tharold Simon, who also missed the Auburn game.
Mathieu made so many big plays in nationally televised games that a grass-roots Heisman Trophy campaign sprouted for the hard-hitting, 5-foot-9 defensive back nicknamed ''Honey Badger,'' after the YouTube sensation featuring a small but fearless animal by the same name.
All that attention may have affected him, he said.
''I'd be lying if I said it didn't,'' Mathieu said. ''You try to stay focused and you try to look to the positive and not get caught up in that, but from time to time, we drift.''
Defensive tackle Michael Brockers said in the long run it might help Mathieu - a sophomore who won't turn 20 until May - to experience a little humility after enjoying so much success so quickly.
''It can humble a person a little more since they're not in the spotlight anymore and he can focus more on what he has to do instead of the media in his face all the time,'' Brockers said. ''When you get a young guy like that getting so much attention ... he needs to be humbled a little bit so he can focus on what he has to focus on - the team - instead of himself.''
Teammates say Mathieu's boundless energy and confidence make him great on the field. Mathieu said he doesn't want to lose that, but also doesn't want to attract undue attention to himself.
To that end, he said he is trying to be more careful about what he says and some of the messages he posts on Twitter.
''Coach Miles definitely tells me about the tweeting because a lot of programs are just airing all of my tweets on TV, so I think that's a distraction to the team, not what we want to represent as a team,'' Mathieu said. ''I don't think I want to attract attention to myself. I think I just get caught in the moment. ... I just have to watch what I'm tweeting and watch what I'm saying via the social networks.''
Mathieu is coming off of a solid game against Western Kentucky last Saturday. He was in on seven tackles, including one for a 9-yard loss. He also broke up a pass, got a hit on the quarterback and returned a punt 29 yards. He said he is trying to get back to the approach that made him successful in the first place, suggesting that he may have allowed his recent surge in fame to affect the way he played recently.
''Maybe it did because you try to do a little bit more than what you're usually doing,'' Mathieu said. ''You kind of listen to everybody saying what kind of plays you should be making and all the things that you should be doing, and really, you should do the things that you've been doing that got you to this point.''