Perhaps, as a youngster in New Orleans, Tyrann Mathieu dreamed of changing games with big plays, earning a great nickname and earning so many awards he’d have to carry them home in a wheelbarrow.
Perhaps, when he quit his job with a trucking company to be a graduate assistant at Michigan, Les Miles dreamed of one day earning recognition as one of the best coaches in college football.
Perhaps, as he burned calories on a schoolyard in Shreveport, Morris Claiborne dreamed of being an All-American one day.
All those dreams are coming true now.
Monday morning, Mathieu was named the Southeastern Conference defensive player of the year by The Associated Press, and Miles was named SEC coach of the year.
“It’s a blessing to receive this honor,” Mathieu said in a statement. “I accept the honor on behalf of my teammates and coaches. It’s been a great season, and I couldn’t have accomplished this without those guys who have been with me every step of the way. I am truly honored to be SEC defensive player of the year, and we all look forward as a team to the (BCS) Championship Game.”
On the same day, his buddy in the defensive backfield, Morris Claiborne, was named a first-team All-American by the American Football Coaches Association.
As it turned out, the day was just getting started for Mathieu and Miles.
And what a day it was.
Monday afternoon, the Honey Badger was named one of five finalists for this year’s Heisman Trophy, the most prestigious individual award in college football — and though he’s a long shot to win (Heisman Pundit, a website that has correctly forecasted the past four winners, projects Mathieu to finish fifth), he will be at the presentation ceremony, which happens live on ESPN at 7 p.m. Saturday.
Mathieu is only the second player in school history to win the AP’s SEC defensive player of the year, joining defensive tackle Glenn Dorsey, who did so in 2007.
Mathieu was joined on the AP’s All-SEC first team by guard Will Blackwell, defensive end Sam Montgomery, punter Brad Wing and Claiborne.
Six other LSU players — wide receiver Rueben Randle, tackle Chris Faulk, defensive end Barkevious Mingo, defensive tackle Michael Brockers, safety Eric Reid and place-kicker Drew Alleman — made the All-SEC second team.
Claiborne — also a finalist for the Thorpe Award, which goes to the best defensive back in the nation, and the Bronko Nagurski Trophy, which goes to the best overall defensive player — has six interceptions this season, along with a 99-yard kickoff return at West Virginia and a 45-yard interception return that capped LSU’s 42-10 wipeout over Georgia in the SEC title game.
Claiborne was the only LSU player on the All-America team.
Alabama, by contrast, had four members: safety Mark Barron, cornerback DeQuan Menzie, offensive lineman Barrett Jones and tailback Trent Richardson.
Those players, of course, will square off with LSU in a rematch for the BCS title Jan. 9 in the Mercedes-Benz Superdome.
As for Mathieu, the do-it-all sophomore leads the Tigers in tackles (70), forced fumbles (six) and fumble recoveries (five).
Of course, his biggest plays have been game-changers.
In the season opener against Oregon in Arlington, Texas, his second-quarter strip and fumble return for a touchdown helped LSU pull away for a 40-27 win.
His past two punt returns for touchdowns, against Arkansas in the home finale and Georgia in the SEC title game, sparked the Tigers to runaway victories.
In earning All-SEC honors and a seat at the Heisman presentation, Mathieu even upstaged his coach.
Later Monday night, the Football Writers Association of America named Miles one of five finalists for the Eddie Robinson Coach of the Year Award.
The grass-chewing LSU coach stumped all comers en route to the school’s 11th SEC title and an undefeated regular season — the Tigers’ first since 1958.
This season, despite what looked at first glance like a rugged schedule, Miles has led LSU to school records in overall wins (13), conference wins (eight), wins over top-25 teams (eight), double-figure wins (12) and games with 40 or more points (nine).
Miles did so while navigating his team through tough times. During the preseason, then-offensive coordinator Steve Kragthorpe revealed he has Parkinson’s disease, prompting Miles to reshuffle his staff, making Kragthorpe quarterbacks coach and promoting Greg Studrawa to offensive coordinator.
Also, wide receiver Russell Shepard was ruled ineligible for the first three games, and during the season, Miles managed a change in starting quarterbacks, flip-flopping the roles of seniors Jarrett Lee and Jordan Jefferson.
The season also included its share of player suspensions — including Jefferson, who was suspended after being arrested in connection with a bar fight, and Mathieu, who was held out of the Auburn game for violating team rules.
Other finalists for the Eddie Robinson Coach of the Year Award are Mike Gundy (Oklahoma State), Brady Hoke (Michigan), Bill Snyder (Kansas State) and Dabo Swinney (Clemson). The winner will be announced on Dec. 15.
The FWAA will host a reception Jan. 8 in New Orleans to honor the winner and present him with the trophy.
One way or the other, Miles will be in New Orleans then. He’ll be getting ready for the title game Jan. 9, trying to make one more dream come true.