ALEXANDRIA, La. – When college football standout Tyrann Mathieu entered drug rehabilitation after being kicked off the Louisiana State University (LSU) football team in August for violating the school’s substance abuse policy, I wrote positively about the young athlete.
Reports from his family indicated that Mathieu, also known as the Honey Badger, would enter drug rehab in Houston on Aug. 17 and would not return to LSU or any other college for the fall semester.
I stated in a column that Mathieu’s decision to leave LSU in order to overcome his problem exhibited character that would serve him well in life. Sadly, it turns out I was wrong.
Shortly after I wrote the column about Mathieu it was announced he was returning to LSU as a student for the fall semester. He enrolled for classes on Sept. 4, just 17 days after he checked into a substance abuse program in Houston.
In my mind, the good decisions that had been previously announced had somehow morphed into poor decisions that would come back to haunt the “Honey Badger.” It seems that is exactly what happened.
It was announced on Oct. 24 that Mathieu was arrested with three other former LSU players. Mathieu and two others were charged with possession of marijuana, while a fourth one was charged with possession with the intent to distribute. The arrests were made in Mathieu’s apartment.
The Bible records Jesus’ instructions for those who are serious about overcoming destructive habits. “If your right eye causes you to stumble,” Jesus taught, “pluck it out and throw it from you. If your right hand makes you stumble, cut it off and throw it from you.”
In hyperbolic fashion Jesus was indicating that a person should go to great lengths in order to overcome a destructive and sinful habit.
In the first biblical book of Proverbs, a young man is told to avoid the temptation of an adulterous woman by keeping his way far from her and by not going near her house. In his letter to the church in Corinth the Apostle Paul wrote, “Bad company corrupts good morals.”
By returning to LSU, Mathieu placed himself in a situation whereby he was likely to be tempted. He not only walked down the street of temptation, he knocked on the door. It is clear that he also continued to associate with those actively using marijuana. Not only does bad company corrupt good morals, it also can derail good intentions.
To a certain degree I can appreciate Mathieu’s situation. Though I was far from the spotlight of major college sports, when I was in my early 20s I had my own experience with life change.
For too long, I had followed a course of excess partying littered with alcohol and marijuana. A course correction occurred when I committed my life to Jesus Christ. As I began to be exposed to scripture, I was convicted that my lifestyle had to change.
I began to take steps to deal with my substance abuse. However, I naively thought I could retain my friends who still pursued a lifestyle of partying. It did not take long to realize that I could not. Like it or not, for my well-being I had to put some distance between me and my friends.
I don’t know if Matthieu received sound, solid biblical advice concerning his situation. If he did, it seems he chose not to follow it. It is a shame. I really thought, or rather assumed, he was taking the right steps.
If Mathieu had participated in some form of substance abuse program for a longer period of time, things might have turned out differently. If he had not returned to LSU, who knows, perhaps he could have changed.
In John Greenleaf Whittier’s poem: “Maud Muller,” the poet wrote, “For of all sad words of tongue or pen, the saddest are these: ‘It might have been!’ For now, these words are sadly too true for Tyrann Mathieu, the Honey Badger.
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Kelly Boggs is a weekly columnist for Baptist Press, director of the Louisiana Baptist Convention’s office of public affairs, and editor of the Baptist Message, newsjournal of the Louisiana Baptist Convention.)