Les Miles, who is the head football coach at Louisiana State University, cared about Tyrann Mathieu.
Yet, before the 2012 season could kickoff, he dismissed him from the team.
As Miles told Arizona Sports 620’s Doug and Wolf Tuesday, nothing Mathieu did negatively impacted the team on the field, in the locker room, or socially. However, at some point the decision to dismiss Mathieu from the team had to be made, as the player’s issues with drugs became too much.
“He was the one who took most of the negativity and the detriment,” he said. “The loss was to the team and the loss was certainly felt.
“Not something that we wanted to sustain and certainly not something that the team needed.”
But, Miles added, “This guy is a special person and I’ve got to root for him.”
Miles and Arizona Cardinals fans both, now that the team chose him in the third round of the NFL Draft last week.
“He will be a tremendous contributor,” Miles said.
Mathieu, who did not play for anybody in 2012, was a consensus All-American, First-Team All-SEC, the SEC Defensive Player of the Year and a Heisman Trophy finalist in 2011.
“He’s a guy who really was meant to play football,” Miles said. “He’s a guy that really just loves it and looks for those opportunities to make Tyrann Mathieu-style of plays.
“Now, the key to Ty is just to make sure he keeps his focus on those things that are important to him,” the coach said. “As long as he doesn’t allow a social life to draw him into things, he’ll be a tremendous player for Arizona for years.”
And therein lies the rub with regards to Mathieu. He’s as talented as any player in the draft, and can be a real weapon for the Cardinals on the field. That would have been true while the player was at LSU, yet Mathieu’s off the field issues could not be overcome while he was in college.
So the hope — really, the expectation — is that Mathieu’s past is just that, and he’s ready to get a once-promising career back on track now that he’s in the NFL.
The player’s problem, his former coach said, is that he’s “a pleaser.”
“He’s one of those guys that when somebody asks him to come, he feels obligated,” he said. “But is he malicious? Absolutely not.
“You will find that he will adhere to team policy and team rules; he was always a tremendous contributor to our team.”
In two college seasons, Mathieu tallied 133 total tackles, four interceptions and six fumble recoveries. He averaged 17.2 yards per return on 25 punts, two of which he returned for touchdowns.
But again, the 5-foot-9, 186-pound player who the Cardinals plan to play at safety has had few troubles when standing between the white lines.
“His issue was off the field, and his issue was the same way that he wants to please his teammates and make plays and compete, and compete with great heart and a lion’s mentality,” Miles said. “In the same way, if he goes to the social life, he wants to help those guys and be with friends and really has a difficult time discerning the difference.”
The Cardinals, though, are betting that they can help Mathieu with just that. Mathieu will turn 21 on May 13, meaning though he’s had some troubles, his entire life is still ahead of him. And, as of right now, it could include a great career in football.
“I think he realizes this is a great opportunity, Arizona and Coach Arians have taken and made for him,” the coach said. “Now it’s time for him to realize his dream and play for years.”
And for what it’s worth, Miles is confident Mathieu will do exactly that.
“I think there’s a need to surround him with the right structure and the right style of guys, but I would bet on him,” he said. “I’ve seen his want and I see who he is being more important than whatever issues could be on the perimeter.”