“Sitting in that jail cell, it clicked,” Mathieu told ESPN’s Joe Schad this week. “Looking at those people, just staring at me. ‘You don’t belong in here.’ They wanted to come through the jail cell and get me. I’m scared now. Because it’s reality now. I don’t ever want to feel like this again. I’m not going to feel like this again.”
Mathieu was arrested along with three other former LSU football players, including former LSU quarterback Jordan Jefferson. Before his arrest, Mathieu was dismissed from the team by Tigers coach Les Miles in August for a failed drug test.
Mathieu, who was a 2011 Heisman Trophy finalist, said he became heavily dependent on marijuana after the Tigers 21-0 loss to the Alabama Crimson Tide in last year’s BCS championship game.
Playing the Crimson Tide in his hometown of New Orleans was a little too much for Mathieu to handle.
“And it really took me out of my preparation for the game,” Mathieu said. “I didn’t give up a touchdown, but I gave up four or five passes. Passes when I knew they were going to run that route. I mean, I knew they were going to run that route. But I didn’t prepare myself. I was worried about everything outside the game.”
But Mathieu admits that if he could re-live that BCS championship period, he would handle things differently. He says that he would have remained in his hotel room and turned off his cell phone.
When Mathieu received the news that he had been kicked off the team, he was crushed.
“Devastating,” the emotional Mathieu said. “It’s all I had. Football. And to think back on it … for the BCS game, I abused myself.”
Mathieu admits that Miles and Tigers head trainer Shelly Mullenix did everything possible to help kick his addiction to marijuana, but he ended up failing them and the school.
“I had to accept the responsibility that I was never going to play for LSU again,” Mathieu said. “The only school that believed in me. And I didn’t even believe in them. I felt I was a loyalty person. Looking back, I didn’t know anything about loyalty. I could talk it, but you know, walking it, was a whole different thing. And when you realize you’re not loyal, that’s what hurts the most. When you realize you lied to people, that’s what hurts the most.”
Marijuana provided an escape for Mathieu when it came to problems on and off the field.
“I’d tell the world I abused myself though marijuana,” Mathieu said. “I abused myself through marijuana. Was I addicted to it? Maybe. Did I form a habit of it? Yes.”
After Mathieu was forced to deal with the consequences of drug abuse, he re-enrolled at LSU and paid for his education. People close to Mathieu advised him to transfer and play lower-division football, but he did not.
Mathieu is adamant that he has given up marijuana by going to rehab and counseling. He says he has removed the negative influences from his inner circle.
He has declared for the 2013 NFL draft and has been training in south Florida with Patrick Peterson, Sr., the father of his former Tiger teammate and Arizona Cardinals cornerback Patrick Peterson.
With difficult questions looming at the Senior Bowl and NFL Scouting Combine, Mathieu understands that he must be on his best behavior.
“I know my mistakes throw red flags up. But I want people to trust me. When I get back on that field, I don’t want to get off. I don’t ever want to leave this game again.”