Former All-America cornerback Tyrann Mathieu on Friday disputed an assertion by an unidentified NFL assistant coach that LSU did not do enough to help the troubled star.
In Friday’s edition, USA Today quoted the assistant as saying, “if he flunked 10 (drug) tests before they suspended him, it shows that he got no kind of help.” Through an LSU news release, Mathieu said he received plenty of assistance.
“LSU has a strong drug testing program, and LSU went to great lengths to help me in my treatment and recovery,” he said in the release. “I understand that many people enjoy reading about the negative side of sports, but to publish those second-hand comments without being given a chance to address that comment prior to the publication of the article is irresponsible.”
When the 2011 Heisman Trophy finalist was dismissed from the team, just after preseason camp began, LSU coach Les Miles said, “We extended ourselves to the full length of the policy.”
LSU Athletic Director Joe Alleva backed what Miles said during that August news conference and stood behind what Mathieu said in Friday’s release.
“LSU has a strong substance abuse program that tries to identify and assist in the treatment and long-term recovery process of drug use and abuse, and it is a program we would put up against any in the country,” Alleva said in the statement. “Once a substance abuse problem is identified, LSU is diligent in tracking those individuals over extended periods of time with frequent testing and engages them in meaningful opportunities for support through counseling and substance abuse treatment.”
The USA Today story quoted the NFL assistant as saying Mathieu, during a recent visit to the pro team, was asked how many drug tests he failed before he was suspended, and he responded, “I quit counting at 10. I really don’t know.”
Mathieu did not dispute that version of the report in his statement but was unhappy that information he considered to be confidential came to light.
“It is irresponsible and shows a lack of integrity for anyone to disclose medical information regardless of how it was gathered,” Mathieu said in the statement. “I would expect that conversations regarding my drug testing history during the course of my medical treatment would be private.”
The news release said Mathieu contacted the school after the publication of the USA Today report, which discussed his prospects for the NFL draft later this month.
Mathieu was kicked off the team Aug. 10 for what Miles and Alleva said was a “violation of team policy.” Several media outlets reported Mathieu’s dismissal was the result of another failed drug test. Mathieu, a New Orleans native, also was suspended for the Auburn game in 2011 for a violation that was widely reported to be a second failed drug test.
Mathieu, who returned to school in the fall semester, was arrested on a misdemeanor drug charge in October and later signed with an agent, forgoing his final two seasons of college eligibility.
During the Aug. 10 news conference announcing Mathieu’s dismissal from the team, Alleva wouldn’t confirm or deny reports Mathieu failed at least two drug tests while at the school. But Alleva and Miles both said LSU tried to help Mathieu, who less than a week later entered Right Step Recovery Center in Houston.
“We do everything we can to help these kids,” Alleva said. “He’s had help, and we’ve been trying to help him all along with everything.”
Mathieu has been working to repair his image as he prepares for the draft, which begins April 25. He traveled to Mobile, Ala., for Senior Bowl workouts in late January to talk to NFL executives, coaches and scouts, and he was invited to the scouting combine in Indianapolis in February. After that, he participated in LSU’s Pro Day at the school’s indoor practice facility March 27. He has since visited seven NFL teams, with three more trips remaining, according to USA Today.
Most draft analysts project the 5-foot-9, 186-pound Mathieu as a second- or third-round pick. NFLDraftScout.com has Mathieu ranked as the 12th-best cornerback in the draft and 87th-best player available regardless of position.
At the combine — a job audition where players are put through a series of workouts, physical and psychological testing, and interviews with teams — Mathieu told reporters he hadn’t had any illegal substances since Oct. 26. And after 51/2 months, he said he intends to stay clean.
“I thought my bottom was when I got kicked out of school, but when I got arrested in October, that was a different bottom,” Mathieu said then. “So I decided to go to rehab. I just wasn’t going to it for publicity or because my school told me to go. I actually wanted to get my problem corrected.”
When asked by ESPN on Thursday whether he would draft Mathieu if he were an NFL general manager, Miles said he would.
“I see him as an immediate starter on special teams, as a returner — kick, punt,” he said. “Spectacular ball skills. He’s been a great teammate. ... And certainly I think he can play in the secondary as well.”