A heartbreaking tale of a staggering talent

The young man they call the Honey Badger plays with a ferocity that I’ve found a bit unsettling even for college football, and SEC football in particular.

Thayer Evans of foxsports.com has the deep background of Tyrann Mathieu’s painful upbringing in New Orleans, and how he’s trying to overcome it. The LSU Heisman Trophy finalist’s father is serving a life prison for murder, and his mother didn’t raise him. He says he doesn’t want to know why.

But it’s the comment from an uncle of the 19-year-old Mathieu that I hope never becomes a haunting one:

“He’s such a good kid and he’s got a good heart. But at some point when things are burning inside you so bad, a fire can be a fire to light up somebody and make good, and some of it can just turn into an out-of-control inferno. That’s the part that I’m scared of happening.”

This kid’s got a lot driving him when he takes the field — a lot more than football — and I can’t imagine what that will be like when he plays in his hometown Monday for the national championship. This story helps to understand him so much better.

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