"I'm not afraid of it. I'm not backing down from it. I think a lot of things I experienced in my life helped me get to this point."
-- Tyrann Mathieu on his past
Excerpts from an article written for ESPN.com by Mark Schlabach:
As No. 1 LSU prepares to play No. 2 Alabama in Monday night's Allstate BCS National Championship Game at the Mercedes-Benz Superdome, Tigers star cornerback Tyrann Mathieu, who has become affectionately known as the "Honey Badger," has returned to the city where he was raised.
Mathieu, who was named a Heisman Trophy finalist and won the Chuck Bednarik Award as the country's top defensive player as a sophomore, said his troubled childhood helped him become the player he is today.
"It teaches you to fight for everything," Mathieu said. "Nothing is going to be given to you. With that being said, you try to take that to the field. You don't want to take any play off and not take any opponent lightly."
Mathieu, 19, spent the first few years of his life living in his grandparents' home in the Central City section of New Orleans. His mother, Tyra Mathieu, was never around much, and his biological father, Darrin Hayes, has been incarcerated nearly every day of Tyrann's life.
After Tyrann's grandfather Lorenzo Mathieu died following a long illness in 1997, Shelia and Tyrone Mathieu decided they would adopt their nephew. Shelia and Tyrone already had three children -- sons Tyrone Jr. and Devon, and daughter Toya' -- when they chose to adopt Tyrann.
Their home was nearly destroyed by Hurricane Katrina in 2005. More than 4 feet of water flooded the house, causing the family to relocate to Humble, Texas, for five months while their home was being repaired.
But even with a standout career at St. Augustine High School, Tyrann Mathieu was more of a recruiting afterthought before his senior season in 2009. Smaller Football Bowl Subdivision schools such as Florida International, Miami (Ohio), Tulane and Louisiana-Monroe recruited him, but high-profile programs such as Alabama and LSU weren't especially interested in signing a 5-foot-9, 160-pound cornerback.
Finally, LSU offered Mathieu a scholarship -- but only after missing out on a few bigger cornerbacks.
"Those other schools didn't want me," Mathieu said. "That's why I've always played with a chip on my shoulder."
This season, Mathieu's play has helped him become a household name from coast to coast. Nicknamed the "Honey Badger" for his ferocious play -- the moniker came from a YouTube video about the feisty carnivore -- Mathieu was named SEC defensive player of the year and was nearly a unanimous All-American. Shops in the French Quarter are selling "Honey Badger" T-shirts, and bars throughout the city are pouring the "Honey Badger" drink, a concoction of honey whiskey and a locally brewed beer.
"I think the Honey Badger nickname came from the fans back in Tiger Nation," Mathieu said. "The honey badger is such a relentless animal. He's fierce, and he definitely doesn't fear anything. So I just try to take that same approach to the field, and just try to play smart and violent football for my team."
But don't count LSU coach Les Miles among the moniker's fans.
"I don't use it," Miles said. "I think it's cool and funny, but there's so much more to Tyrann than the Honey Badger."
Read the entire article here: http://es.pn/wBnr8k