The tragic murder of former Saints defensive end Will Smith over the weekend has clearly impacted Cardinals safety and New Orleans native Tyrann Mathieu. Mathieu has been everywhere over the past 24 hours, filling up his Twitter timeline with comments and doing multiple national interviews to talk about trying to change what he sees as an often-violent culture of his hometown.
On the NFL Network Monday afternoon, Mathieu said he is about to start a charitable foundation and he wanted to use it to spearhead change in New Orleans.
"We have to redirect, restructure these kids into thinking those things aren't cool anymore," Mathieu said. "Going to school is cool, being accountable is cool, being responsible is cool. Those things are the cool things to do. I 'm going to use my platform, and I think this is the perfect time for me."
Mathieu, who at 23 is not that far removed from being a kid himself, laments the lack of facilities for kids to be in, especially after hours when those in single parent homes don't have a parent at home because mom or dad is working a night shift just to make a living.
"It's about who we surround ourselves with," Mathieu said. "Most of these kids surround themselves with the wrong people and form bad habits. For me, it's about reaching out and getting them to understand that, formulating a legit plan, an honest plan for these kids, and a strategic one so we don't lose these kids in the process.
"I am not the most talented guy to come out of New Orleans. There are guys that are more talented than me that just gave up on themselves. If I can lend a helping hand and get those guys to believe in themselves and see the bigger picture ... if I can get through to one kid, then I can get through to a thousand kids. That's my plan."
Mathieu said in a couple of interviews he doesn't spend much time in New Orleans when he goes there now -- quick trips to visit family, and then leaving again, because of a concern the wrong crowd could come looking for him. The Smith murder was terrible, but so too are the many other tragic deaths that happen far too often in his hometown that often get overlooked, Mathieu said. That's why helping kids when they are younger and trying to break the cycle is so important.
"They don't think they can accomplish anything," Mathieu said. "They do not think further than New Orleans. When I say that, I don't exaggerate. For me, it's getting them to believe there is a life outside of New Orleans, there is a life outside of that culture."