Indianapolis—One of the more compelling storylines at this week’s NFL Scouting Combine is Tyrann Mathieu's attempt to resurrect a once promising career.
He’s not big. He doesn’t possess elite athleticism, either. He also got booted from LSU for multiple drug-related transgressions.
But there’s also no doubting Mathieu’s ability on a football field. And therein lies the critical question facing teams, like the Redskins, who are in need of a playmaker in the secondary: is the 2011 SEC defensive player of the year worth the risk?
"I'm not totally asking them to trust me right now," Mathieu told a room of reporters and cameras on Sunday afternoon at Lucas Oil Stadium. "What I have asked is for them to give me an opportunity to play the game. I've had a lot of time to reflect, especially without football. It's really given me a different outlook on life.”
Mathieu said he’s been sober since Oct. 26, has completed a rehab program and has a sponsor. He’d also prefer to his leave his college nickname – Honey Badger – in the past, as well.
“I know what it's like to be humiliated,” he said. “To go back down that road, nah, not a chance in this world. Not a chance in my lifetime again.”
Under Mike Shanahan, the Redskins have targeted players they believe are 'character guys'. Mathieu, it seems, does not fit that profile.
Mathieu’s skill set, though, seems to mesh with the Redskins’ needs. The 5 foot 9, 186-pounder could prove to be an ideal nickel corner in the pros. He can play safety and return punts, too. Two seasons ago, Mathieu took back 25 punts for an average of 17.2 yards and two touchdowns.
Some talent evaluators have Mathieu pegged as a fifth or sixth round pick because of his off the field problems. Those projections, though, could improve or plummet based on what he does Tuesday when he participates in the 40-yard dash and other drills.
Mathieu said he’s confident the time off hasn’t caused him to lose a step. He was just as adamant that he’ll manage to remain on the straight and narrow.
"My best friend right now is honesty,” he said, referring to his one-on-one interviews with team personnel. “I want to be as open as possible because I'm trying to rebuild people's trust. I want those guys to be able to trust me.”
But can they?