BEREA: Arizona Cardinals rookie Tyrann Mathieu has dumped his “Honey Badger” nickname because it’s associated with a period of his life he’d rather forget.
But if Mathieu can stay out of trouble, if he can put the advice he received this week at the NFL Rookie Symposium to use, he might be willing to embrace the “Honey Badger” moniker again. Mathieu flirted with the idea Friday during the symposium’s youth football clinic at the Browns’ training facility.
“I don’t know if he’s going to come back this fall,” Mathieu said when asked if he would revive the “Honey Badger.” “I really don’t know. But right now, I’m happy being Tyrann. Tyrann is a fun guy, and I’m just ready to play some ball.”
Could his “Honey Badger” alias ever have a positive connotation after what he’s been through?
“I think so, but I think it’s going to take some time, just because ‘Honey Badger’ happened at such a bad time, a time where I wasn’t making the best decisions,” said Mathieu, who credits LSU defensive coordinator John Chavis for giving him the nickname. “So going forward, if I’m able to make the right decisions, able to be that role model for the kids, I think the ‘Honey Badger’ can be a pretty positive person.”
After becoming a Heisman Trophy finalist in 2011 as a cornerback and punt returner at Louisiana State University, Mathieu was dismissed from the team Aug. 10, 2012, after reportedly failing multiple drug tests. In October, he and three former LSU players were arrested for marijuana possession.
Mathieu entered a drug rehabilitation program and has been trying to rebuild his image ever since.
“I think just with the NFL in general, all of us our under a microscope, but I think I’m under an even bigger microscope,” Mathieu said. “It’s just really time for me to do the right things, make the right decisions.”
Mathieu said he didn’t visit the Browns before the draft, even though new defensive coordinator Ray Horton, who spent the past two seasons in the same role with the Cardinals, expressed interest in him. Despite his off-field issues, the Cardinals drafted Mathieu in the third round (69th overall), and will use him as a free safety.
The 5-foot-9, 186-pound Mathieu said the attention he received in college got to his head.
“I was young,” Mathieu, 21, said. “I’d never been famous before. I’d never been a star on that level before. So it definitely got to me. It was definitely humbling to go through what I went through.”
Mathieu said the symposium was mostly a review for him because he had already met with some of its keynote speakers, including former NBA player Chris Herren and Cincinnati Bengals cornerback Adam “Pacman” Jones, and talked about the right and wrong way for professional athletes to conduct themselves. He’s also had several heart-to-heart talks with new Cardinals coach Bruce Arians, a former Browns offensive coordinator.
“I know what it’s like to be that guy not making the right decisions,” Mathieu said. “I know what it’s like to be that guy in the meeting room getting called out because of something you did over the weekend. So it’s something I’ve learned from. I think it’s something I’ve grown from, and, really, I’m just ready to move past it.”
Way more excited
Browns quarterback Brandon Weeden has often said he believes the downfield, vertical passing attack installed by new coach Rob Chudzinski and new offensive coordinator Norv Turner is a better fit for him than the West Coast offense used by ex-Cleveland coach Pat Shurmur last season, when Weeden was a rookie.
Well, Weeden made sure to get his point across Friday during a radio interview with WKNR (850-AM). When asked to rank his level of excitement about the Browns’ offense on a scale of 1-10, Weeden said it was a three last year and it’s a 12 this year.
The majority of the 150 children, ages 7-14, who participated Friday in the symposium’s youth football clinic with the NFC rookies were from the Akron Parent Pee Wee Football Association, the Akron Titans or the Akron West Griffins Traveling Team.
“It’s a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for these kids to be able to work out with the rookies and to be involved with them,” said Clarence Kaiser, director of Akron East Youth Football, which is part of the Akron Parent Pee Wee Association. “They were excited. [Browns youth football manager] Matt Yunker and the Cleveland Browns got us three buses. We got the kids up here, and they’re having a great time.”
The symposium will wrap up today with the NFC rookies touring the Pro Football Hall of Fame in Canton.
Nate Ulrich can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Read the Browns blog at http://www.ohio.com/browns. Follow him on Twitter at www.twitter.com/NateUlrichABJ and on Facebook www.facebook.com/browns.abj.