Thursday was a particularly difficult day for the Mathieu family. First Marie Mathieu, the maternal grandmother of former LSU star Tyrann Mathieu, suffered two strokes. As the family rushed to a New Orleans hospital to support her, they received some more disheartening news: Tyrann had been arrested for marijuana possession along with three of his former LSU teammates.
"They were already crying," Tyrann's sister Darrineka Mathieu said. "Now they were also upset with what's going on with Tyrann."
Mathieu's arrest likely ends any hope of the Honey Badger playing football at LSU again. A Heisman finalist in 2011, Mathieu was kicked off the team in August for failing multiple drug tests. A short time later, he entered a month-long rehab program with John Lucas in Houston and then returned to LSU as a regular student this fall. Many friends and family members had hoped Mathieu would stay out of trouble, rejoin the team in the spring and finish his career with the Tigers in 2013.
Instead Mathieu, 20, got into trouble again. He was charged with simple possession of marijuana after being arrested in his off-campus apartment along with three other former Tigers: quarterback Jordan Jefferson, safety Derrick Bryant and linebacker Karnell Hatcher. (Mathieu's family lawyer did not return a request for comment.)
When contacted by SI, Mathieu's mother, Tyra, called the arrest "bad news."
"I can only handle one thing at a time," she said from a New Orleans hospital emergency room via telephone. "I'm just trying to get through this."
The arrests cast another ugly spotlight on the LSU football program. Before the start of last season, Jefferson got in a fight outside a Baton Rouge bar and was charged with a felony. The charges were reduced to a misdemeanor, but the fight prompted weeks of ugly headlines and cost Jefferson the starting job at the beginning of the season.
Thursday police received a call that a man, identified in the police report as Jefferson, was attempting to force his way through a gate at Mathieu's apartment complex. When police arrived they smelled marijuana at Mathieu's apartment and found 10 bags of high-grade marijuana, seven of which were in the backpack of Bryant, who was charged with possession with intent to distribute. Jefferson was charged with simple possession, while Hatcher was charged with second-offense simple possession.
Mathieu is the only one of the four arrested former players with any remaining eligibility. But it's doubtful that he will ever wear an LSU uniform again. Mathieu was projected as a third-round NFL draft pick before the arrest, but his stock has likely dropped.
While it's not uncommon for NFL teams to take chances on players who have had issues with drugs, Mathieu is not an elite pro prospect. He's only 5-foot-8, doesn't possess blazing speed and isn't considered a lockdown cornerback.
Mathieu's sister Darrineka expressed disappointment and dismay over her brother's decision to return to LSU in the first place. "I just feel like Tyrann should have never went back there because you're surrounding yourself with the same environment that you already got in trouble with," she said. "I'm hurt for him. I'm sorry that it happened to him, but there's nothing else I can do."