Yes. I’m talking about you. All of you. All SEC fans and football fans around the country. We will all miss Tyrann Mathieu.
You may not have liked him, but you respected him. And if you didn’t respect him for his antics (exhibit A & exhibit B), you liked watching the highlights on GameDay re-run at midnight for his crazy knack of making the big play. And if you missed it on GameDay, you looked them up on YouTube or watched them here at SDS. If you didn’t love him, you loved to hate him.
Mathieu might not have been the best cover-corner on his team. I get that.
Heck, even ESPN the Magazine did a special on Mathieu and found some interesting statistics. LSU’s second corner – projected to start opposite of Mathieu – this year will be Tharold Simon. Simon was targeted 30 times last year and allowed 3.6 yards per try, while Mathieu was targeted 25 times and allowed 14 completions for 221 yards – 8.8 yards per attempt.
He’s not lockdown material. Never has been.
But you can’t deny his uncanny knack for making the big play when his team needed it the most.
Down 10-0 in the first half against Georgia in the SEC Championship when the Bulldogs had all the momentum, Honey Badger brought it home with a return for a touchdown. It sparked an onslaught, and LSU never looked back.
Down a touchdown against Arkansas, he delivered once again on a 92-yard punt return that tied the game. The Tigers never looked back.
How about his crazy INT at West Virginia in which he tipped the pass to himself and took it back inside the five-yard line, that eventually led to LSU punching it in.
Or what about his forced fumble against Oregon on punt coverage that he returned for a touchdown.
And yet again he provided a crazy highlight against Kentucky on a corner blitz in which he reached all the way around the quarterback and stripped the ball, only to return it for a touchdown.
Why doesn’t anyone else around the country make those kind of plays? It’s not because Mathieu is a superior corner or the best athlete in the country.
He’s the Honey Badger. He just had a knack for making the big play and always found a way to get some momentum going for his team in big games.
Some guys are just gamers. And he was one of them.
Now his teammates will have to carry that No. 1 ranking without their top defensive playmaker. (I’m completely convinced they can).
His absence in the SEC West means the West is wide open again. It means people all around college football changed their preseason top five because of it. It means the AP is letting everyone resubmit their ballots that were due last Wednesday before releasing the top 25 on August 18. It means SI.com will have to fill in two players on the first team because Mathieu was the only player listed twice.
Even Verne Lundquist will have to find something else to talk about on Saturdays.
But aside from the SEC and the LSU Tigers, Mathieu becomes another young man in trouble who needs help. It’s well documented that his mother was a drug addict and his father has been in prison. He needs a mentor, a fatherly figure, to help him through.
I don’t condone what he did or continued to do throughout his time at LSU, nor do I blame it all on his upbringing. In the end, Mathieu brought this on himself. He thought he was bigger than the game; bigger than LSU. I hope he finds the help he needs, and I hope we can see this kid play on Sundays in some capacity.
Whether you love him or you hate him, we will all miss the Honey Badger.