May 13, 1992: Born in New Orleans, Louisiana, to Tyra Mathieu and Darrin Hayes, inmate and former local football hero. The day Hayes is released in 1993, he murders Donald Noten. Tyra Mathieu testifies against him. (If you haven't, you should read this by Thayer Evans about Tyrann Mathieu's upbringing.)
I concluded the root of Tyrann Mathieu's pain is he doesn't believe anybody loves him unconditionally. Not his mom, not his dad. Nobody.— Matt Crossman (@MattCrossmanSN) October 26, 2012
1997: Loses his grandfather, caretaker and best friend, Lorenzo "Red" Mathieu. "Red" tells Tyrann's grandmother, Marie Mathieu, to take him to live with Uncle Tyrone, whom Mathieu will eventually start calling "Pops." Years later, Mathieu takes up football because two of his new siblings play the game.
Mathieu was so old by the time he started to call someone mom and dad that he remembers feeling awkward using those words. I wanted to cry.— Matt Crossman (@MattCrossmanSN) October 26, 2012
High school: Takes it out on St. Augustine's opponents, starring on defense and special teams. The highlights, according to LSU:
One of the top defensive back prospects in the state ... A member of the Rivals 250 and rated as the 13th-best cornerback in the nation by Rivals.com ... Rated the No. 9 prospect in the state of Louisiana by Rivals.com ... Named to the New Orleans Times-Picayune 2010 Blue-Chip List, the Baton Rouge Advocate Super Dozen and the Mobile Press Register Super Southeast 120 ... Also a SuperPrep All-American ... Participant in the inaugural Team USA vs. The World game ... Recorded 32 tackles, five interceptions, one sack and one fumble recovery as a senior .
June 21, 2009: Rated a four-star cornerback by Rivals, the 5'9, 160-pound Mathieu commits to LSU. Had no other BCS offers despite excelling in camps hosted by Alabama and Tennessee. Too small. Mathieu will go 4-1 against Alabama and Tennessee, and Les Miles will say this of his cornerback's size:
"I've got to be real honest with you. I don't see him as small. I see him as big and fast and aggressive and with the mindset that, ‘I'm fixing to make a bigtime play.' ... That stature that he carries on to the field does not represent any limitations in his size or his speed. He makes those plays and I don't know that I recognize any limitations."
September 4, 2010: Against No. 18 UNC in his first college game, sacks T.J. Yates in LSU territory and forces a fumble with 1:29 left in a game the Tigers win by only six points. Goes on to beat the school career forced fumbles record by four despite playing in only 26 games.
January 7, 2011: Finishes a national All-Freshman season by being named Cotton Bowl MVP against Texas A&M with [deep breath] an interception, a sack, two forced fumbles, a fumble recovery, a pass breakup, a tackle for loss and seven tackles:
September 3, 2011: Scores first career touchdown, against No. 4 Oregon, recovering his own forced Kenjon Barner fumble and running it in. Won't be the last time he'd do this.
Somewhere around here: Becomes "the Honey Badger."
As the story goes, there is a funny video on the Internet of an animal called the honey badger. LSU defensive coordinator John Chavis showed the video to the team on a flight home and pointed out the similarities between the honey badger and Mathieu. Mathieu laughed until he cried. Honey Badger became his nickname and grew into a public phenomenon.
The line between Mathieu and the Honey Badger blurred. The two became one. The honey badger, an aggressive and violent creature, takes no pity on its foes. Neither does Honey Badger. "I see people in public, their faces light up when they see me, when they see the Honey Badger," he says. "It's a blessing for you to make somebody happy. This is my philosophy on it: If the Honey Badger makes you happy, I'll be the Honey Badger for you."
LSU orders fans to stop making this shirt:
The nickname reaches its apex during the national title game, when Brent Musburger says it approximately twice per sentence.
November 25, 2011: Scores first career punt return touchdown, against No. 5 Arkansas. The game was 14-7, Hogs, at the time and ended in a 41-17 Tigers victory.
December 3, 2011: Pretty much does the same thing in the same situation with the same result the next week in the SEC Championship Game against No. 19 Georgia. Here is Tyrann Mathieu's last-ever real college highlight (though, yes, he also recovered a fumble later on):
December 2011: Named a Heisman Trophy finalist despite playing no offense, the nation's best defender by the Bednarik Award people, a unanimous All-America (whether at cornerback, returner or both), the SEC Championship Game MVP and so forth. Will never win another major college football award.
He does, however, out-stunt his fellow Heisman finalists:
Jeff Zelevansky/Getty Images
January 2012: From an interview with Matt Crossman:
"It's refreshing," he says. "It's things to look forward to. If you wind up in that trophy room, that's something nobody can take away from you. On the field, that's my one and only time to be angry, and to be aggressive. I just try to channel it the best way I know how."
April 2012: The NFL Draft concludes. Mathieu is immediately rated as a first-round pick for the following April.
June 11, 2012: Twitter squabble with Alabama's A.J. McCarron, the quarterback responsible for Mathieu's most disappointing college performance, the BCS title game (which still saw him break up two passes). Mathieu normally uses his Twitter account to send public love notes to his girlfriend, chide haters and quote rap lyrics. The offseason is so boring.
July 13, 2012: Mathieu lets the world know he has never been served a proper steak.
August 10, 2012: Dismissed by preseason No. 1 LSU for failing a drug test.
August 11, 2012: Appears at nearby McNeese State, which has a reputation for accepting BCS conference dismissals. Other schools express interest, obviously.
August 13, 2012: Interested in doing whatever it takes to stay at LSU. Things get confusing as nobody really knows whether to say he can do that in 2013 or not. Les Miles speaks, so everyone just gets more confused. Eventually, Mathieu's called "permanently dismissed."
August 17, 2012: Enters rehab. Will not transfer to a FCS school. Clearly positioning for a LSU return.
September 3, 2012: Enrolls at LSU as a non-player.
October 2, 2012: Less than two months after "permanently dismissed," Miles says Mathieu has a "legitimate chance" of coming back. I'm excited to watch Mathieu's return next year.
October 16, 2012:
Pete Thamel and Thayer Evans portray Mathieu's impending return as clouded by hangers-on, NCAA violations, drug addiction, family scars and the ever-dreaded party flyers.
October 25, 2012: Grandmother and former caretaker Marie Mathieu suffers two strokes. Shortly after, Tyrann is arrested in Baton Rouge along with three former teammates after a confrontation between Jordan Jefferson and apartment security led to Mathieu giving police permission to search his home. Charged with simple possession of marijuana.
Simple Possession of Marijuana:
a) Any person who knowingly or intentionally possesses twenty-eight grams or more, but less than two hundred grams, of a narcotic drug (all substances in Schedule I preceded by an asterisk "*"), shall be sentenced to serve a term of imprisonment at hard labor of not less than five years, nor more than thirty years, and to pay a fine of not less than fifty thousand dollars, nor more than one hundred fifty thousand dollars.(b) Any person who knowingly or intentionally possesses two hundred grams or more, but less than four hundred grams, of a narcotic drug (all substances in Schedule I preceded by an asterisk "*"), shall be sentenced to serve a term of imprisonment at hard labor of not less than ten years, nor more than thirty years, and to pay a fine of not less than one hundred thousand dollars, nor more than three hundred fifty thousand dollars.(c) Any person who knowingly or intentionally possesses four hundred grams or more of a narcotic drug (all substances in Schedule I preceded by an asterisk "*"), shall be sentenced to serve a term of imprisonment at hard labor of not less than fifteen years, nor more than thirty years, and to pay a fine of not less than two hundred fifty thousand dollars, nor more than six hundred thousand dollars.
Onward: Will never play at LSU again.
Will either play one more season of college football, maybe at a Division II school in Louisiana, or never play football again. Will either set the NFL Combine on fire or never play football again. Will either be drafted several rounds higher than draft bros are having you believe right now or never play football again.
Might get in trouble again at the NFL level, might never be heard from again, might found a charity and write a book. Might win a Super Bowl on a punt return. Might last one NFL training camp before disappearing. Might coach high school football in New Orleans or Baton Rouge. Might be formally embraced by LSU again one day down the road.
Will remain angry.