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Mathieu Looking for Trust, Opportunity

INDIANAPOLIS --On the field, LSU defensive back Tyrann Mathieu was as dynamic as they come.

The 2011 Bednarik Award winner finished the season as a first-team All-American and the first defensive back to be invited to the Heisman Trophy ceremony since Charles Woodson in 1997.

The issue was Mathieu off the field.

He was dismissed from the LSU football team in August of last year and was arrested a little more than a month later for drug possession.

"I thought my bottom was when I got kicked out of school, but I think when I got arrested in October, that was a different bottom," Mathieu said Sunday at the NFL Scouting Combine. "So I decided to go to rehab, but this time to rehab was for Tyrann -- I wasn't just going to it for publicity or because my school wanted me to go. I actually wanted to get my problem corrected."

What the play-making defensive back wants to prove to NFL teams this week is that he has corrected the problem. He said he hasn't touched drugs since Oct. 26, 2012, and has been hard at work training to show that he's still the player he was at LSU.

"They pretty much know everything," Mathieu said of what teams are asking him. "It's more about do I still have it and am I capable of being the big-time player that I was at LSU."

That player was remarkably productive. In just two seasons, Mathieu racked up 133 tackles, 16 tackles for loss, 16 pass breakups, 11 forced fumbles, eight fumble recoveries, six sacks, four interceptions and four touchdowns.

In his 26-game LSU career, Mathieu -- who became known as The Honey Badger -- created 14 turnovers. His 11 forced fumbles are a school record and tie for the SEC all-time mark.

"Once I get back to playing football, I'm still going to make those big-time plays and going to be that excitement for my team," Mathieu said.

Mathieu was also a dynamic punt returner, averaging more than 15 yards per punt return and scoring twice in the 2011 season.

That versatility is part of why NFL Network analyst Mike Mayock called the "intriguing" Mathieu "a really interesting wildcard."

"I'm not totally asking (teams) to trust me right now," Mathieu said. "What I am asking is for them to give me an opportunity to play the game again."

He hopes that the fact that he has been to rehab and counseling and has a sponsor will help that process.

And in time, he wants to rebuild that trust.

"My best friend right now is honesty," he said. "I want them to be able to trust me. I hold myself accountable for everything I've done this past year. It's been tough, but at the end of the day I want them to know I'm a football player. I want to be a great teammate and I want to be the same leader on the field that I know I can be off the field."

For now, Mathieu said he's just happy to be around football again. It's his talent that earned him an invite to the combine, and he's prepared to play whatever position in the defensive secondary that NFL teams want. After all, he started at safety, nickel back and cornerback in his time at LSU.

He recognizes that he has most likely cost himself "millions" due to his off-field mishaps, but said that's not his concern right now. He has even left his "Honey Badger" nickname in the past, preferring to "focus on Tyrann Mathieu."

At the end of the day, the 5-foot-9, 186-pound defensive back knows that in order to achieve his dreams on the football field, he'll have to prove to teams that he won't revert to bad habits off of it.

"I know what it's like not to have football," Mathieu said. "I know what it's like not to be in the front of the room, not to be the center of attention, and I know what it's like to be humiliated. To go back down that road -- not a chance in this world. Not a chance in my lifetime. But every day it's a process.

"I'm not saying that I'm totally there. But I am taking strides every day to be the best person that Tyrann can be."

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