Tyrann Mathieu, better known as the Honeybadger, evolved right before our eyes and now is the highest paid safety in the NFL.

Honeybadger inked a deal on Tuesday worth $62.5 million with $40 million in guaranteed money. The Cardinals have invested what in Mathieu who was once a “sad waste of talent.”

I remember August 10, 2012 like it like it was yesterday. A nuclear bomb dropped on the college football world as it’s most recognizable player was about to have his world turned upside down.

I was working for Nicholls State University’s football program at the time. The team was in the middle of fall camp preparing for the upcoming season. I had just arrived to the field-house sitting there with one of my best friends who worked with me on the video staff. It was around 8:30 a.m. when one of the players came into the office to tell one of the coaches that Tyrann Mathieu was going to be kicked off of the LSU football team. Everyone’s ears raised a little higher and everyone’s eyes got a little wider. what did you say

There was plenty of buzz before practice about the idea of Honeybadger coming to an FCS school. It was all my friend and I talked about at practice while we were filming.

Look it up, Nicholls was getting pummeled year after year. A player like Tyrann would have been amazeballs for the program. I am totally convinced we would have won at least six games and sold out our home games.

After practice, we were uploading the game film and more speculation came in regards to when he is coming. Of course coach could not “confirm or deny” anything in regards to Mathieu. We were certain that Mathieu was going to be in a Colonel uniform for the 2012 season.

Then the news officially broke around noon that Mathieu was being dismissed from LSU for drug-related issues.

Reports surfaced that he was visiting McNeese, which I heard through the grapevine that he hated being there. It was supposed to be a weekend visit and allegedly ended 12 hours after arrival.

He eventually went MIA and no one could get a hold of him.

I kept showing up to practice everyday hoping to see the Honeybadger. I was obsessed with the idea of him playing for Nicholls. Unfortunately, it never happened. He didn’t play for anybody.Damn

Then it was reported that Mathieu was entering a rehab facility. A short time later, he enrolled back at LSU to at least get back to work in the classroom. By October, Honeybadger was caught with his hand in the cookie jar again and was arrested with simple possession.

It looked like everything was over for him. He later opened up about thoughts of suicide. Football was his life. It was everything to him and he was throwing it all away, which lead him to depression. He obviously needed to get his life in order.

He eventually moved in with former LSU teammate and current Arizona Cardinal teammate Patrick Peterson. He left his boys from New Orleans behind and never looked back. He cut ties with the people who held him down. That turned out to be the best decision he ever made.leo-toast-9.w529.h352

Cutting friends, family or people you are close with out of your life is never easy. Despite what people who may not grow up in rough areas think, cutting your boys out is a near impossible task for a lot of these athletes. Granted, I can’t relate, but I can sympathize and it is unfortunate.

That was the turning point for Mathieu. Had he not decided to find his own way, I am just not sure where he would be. Jail? Working a 9-5 like the rest of us (nothing wrong with that)? Who knows?

He eventually declared for the NFL draft and was picked by the Cardinals in the third round (low risk, high reward). I remember hearing Saints fans, the same people who called him an idiot, saying how badly they wanted him in New Orleans. That would have been the worst place for him. I am happy he is far away from here. As much as I love seeing the Saints do well, I like seeing good people succeed more.

I may not know him from a ham sandwich, but he seems like a good guy who just liked to smoke a lot. He wasn’t involved in any gangs. He wasn’t robbing people. He was smoking weed.

He has been in the league for three years and it appears he has left the trouble behind him, as the Cardinals invested a bunch of money into a guy who everyone thought would never be able to make it.

The biggest knock on Mathieu currently is that he hasn’t played a full season to date. Although, logging 40 games in three years isn’t bad.

Last year, he was on his way to potentially becoming defensive player of the year before an injury knocked him off track. He finished the year with 89 tackles and five interceptions, including his first career pick six. Mathieu is the same chess piece he was in college. The Cardinals move him around the defense and let him use his football instincts that once made him a Heisman finalist.

More important than regaining his impact on the field, Tyrann Mathieu has left the immature decision making behind and the 24-year-old’s future has never looked brighter.

Kudos. We all make mistakes. We don’t always learn from them, but you did.

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