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Tyrann Mathieu, Not Honey Badger, Joins Cards

Posted May 9, 2013

Rookie safety ready to shed nickname and get his NFL career started as a Cardinal

Rookie safety Tyrann Mathieu speaks to the media Thursday at the Cardinals' Tempe complex.

Tyrann Mathieu sat behind the microphone Thursday at the Cardinals’ Tempe complex, in his first press conference as a member of the team.

“Honey Badger” was not there. Or, at least, Mathieu would rather have him not there.

The rookie safety, the team’s third-round pick, has long been known by the moniker. But with the marijuana issues that derailed his college career at LSU – when he earned the nickname – Mathieu doesn’t see a place for “Honey Badger” now that he is in the NFL.

“I understand there are a lot of people who were in love with the Honey Badger and they will not let it go, but for me, going forward, I want people to recognize me as Tyrann Mathieu,” the safety said. “I don’t have anything against the Honey Badger. It’s just that Honey Badger happened at such a dark time in my life.

“I’m just really focusing on Tyrann right now.”

That was the theme of Mathieu’s talk. Much like his conference call with local media the day the Cardinals drafted him, Mathieu again talked about being blessed to be a Cardinal and insisted he is ready to put his troubled past behind him.

He has been honest with his problems, he said, and now it’s time to play football – which starts Friday with the Cardinals’ rookie minicamp.

“I think me just doing what I have to do, just letting my actions speak for themselves (will quiet the questions),” Mathieu said. “I definitely have a long journey ahead of me and there are definitely going to be some challenges, but I think I’m prepared for it.”

Fellow rookie Kevin Minter, the LSU linebacker who played with Mathieu in college from 2010-11, backed Mathieu’s confidence.

“He’s changed a lot,” Minter said. “He’s matured a lot. He was young when he made those mistakes. I feel like in these coming weeks, you are all going to realize this guy means business.”

That will start with his move to safety. Mathieu has played there a little but acknowledged “I won’t say I’m comfortable with it.” That said, “it’s something I’m willing to do,” and added if the coaching staff has faith in him playing the position, he can make it work.

His layoff from football, with a return to the field looming, won’t hurt him, Mathieu said. He doesn’t think he will be rusty or a step behind, even if he has to catch up to the speed of the NFL.

But that is the easy part of the equation. General Manager Steve Keim said the Cardinals had a late-first-round grade on Mathieu, a testament both to his football skills and the impact his off-field problems had on his draft status.

In Arizona, he will have Minter to help with his transition, as well as cornerback Patrick Peterson, who has served as Mathieu’s friend/mentor/guru throughout his pre-draft process.

“(Patrick) is going to be extremely important, probably as important as my girlfriend,” Mathieu said. “He’s probably going to be everywhere with me. I’m just going to follow Patrick’s routine.”

Peterson downplayed the need to mentor Mathieu, noting “it’s just someone that is going to guide him, just continue to show him the way, especially show him the way of how to be a professional.”

That fits with Mathieu. He said he wants to fit in and learn from the veterans already in place, a good sign for a player who still is only 20 years old. Mathieu believes he has shown over the last six months his life is going the right way. He believes he’ll have the right support in Arizona to keep him there. And he thinks holding on to his old nickname could only hold him back.

Though with a smile, he couldn’t close the door on his famous alter ego completely.

“If the little kids out there want to call me Honey Badger,” Mathieu said with a smile, “they can do that.”

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