Cardinals safety Tyrann Mathieu has some fun with his "Heart of a Badger" camp participants Saturday by squirting water on them.
NEW ORLEANS – Catching a pass wasn't good enough for Tyrann Mathieu.
The Cardinals safety stared into the eyes of the handful of 12-year-olds taking part in the receiving station of Mathieu's "Heart of a Badger" football camp Saturday night, a grin on his face. A couple of the campers talked themselves up to the hometown hero, insisting they had excellent touchdown celebrations. Mathieu wanted proof.
"Show me something," Mathieu said, chuckling when one did just that.
It was a fair request. Mathieu had already shown the 300-plus kids in attendance a little something himself by coming back to host the
three hours of work at Tad Gormley Stadium, not far from the French Quarter. It was the field on which Mathieu had played for St. Augustine High School, and the place where he hopes to hold annual camps in his own effort to better a city that could use role models.
"It's important for these kids to see somebody who made it out of the same situation, the same environment," Mathieu said. "Hopefully I can bring some encouragement, some inspiration."
The kids participating were all handpicked by Mathieu's newly formed foundation. The coaches -- which included Patrick Peterson's father, Patrick Peterson Sr. – were those who taught Mathieu the game as he grew, from pee wee to Pop Warner to high school.
He also was supported with a visit by his former coach at Louisiana State University, Les Miles, who stays in contact with Mathieu even after Mathieu was kicked off the team in college. Current star LSU running back Leonard Fournette, a close friend of Mathieu's and fellow New Orleans product, also stopped by.
Doing such a camp was always in Mathieu's long-term plan, his target after his third season in the NFL. But Mathieu didn't deny the timing was right after the city's problems with crime were highlighted by the murder of ex-Saints defensive end Will Smith earlier this year.
At that point, Mathieu made some pointed comments about the dangers of New Orleans and the need to give the local children role models to watch and activities to do so the violence could hopefully be slowed.
"Some of my comments were premature and I think some people misunderstood what I was saying," Mathieu said. "Obviously I was born and bred in New Orleans, all my family is here. It is a place of great celebrations.
"On the flip side crime is an issue, violence is an issue, and I just want to use my platform to speak out on that."
His direct message to the kids at the camp wasn't as specific – he told them he just wanted them to realize they had options in their lives and the opportunity to chase their dreams – but it was understood.
"You really don't have anyone to motivate you, so you want to push yourself," said Kobie Poston, 15.
To Poston, Mathieu can be a role model "because he came from the same place and look where he's at right now."
That's exactly the kind of impact Mathieu – who plans on a similar camp in Arizona – hopes to have.
"Where we are from, kids don't have that motivation," Fournette said. "Kids are surrounded by guns and drugs every day, friends getting killed, family members getting killed. You don't have that support you really need.
"By (Tyrann) having this camp, people like me coming up see the motivation and (how) he inspires a generation. I think he's doing a tremendous job."
Tyrann Mathieu holds his "Heart of a Badger" camp in New Orleans