Sports Illustrated investigates Tyrann Mathieu's rise and fall

Tuesday, October 16, 2012 - 6:30pm

Sports Illustrated Senior Writers Thayer Evans and Pete Thamel get inside the world of former LSU defensive back Tyrann Mathieu, one of college football’s most exciting players last season who was kicked off the team in August for multiple failed drug tests.

The story Evans and Thamel uncover is much more complex and they deliver it with perspective from members of Mathieu’s family, including letters from his imprisoned father, a group of childhood friends that calls itself Era Nation, and former NBA player John Lucas, who is working with Mathieu in rehab. The report also uncovers possible NCAA violations committed by Mathieu and other LSU players.

Here are some highlights from this week’s SI cover story “The Trials of the Honey Badger” which now also appears on (

Possible NCAA Violations

Since last January Mathieu has allowed his image to be used on a flyer promoting an event at a local nightclub, appeared in several online videos promoting other events and, multiple sources told SI, received benefits at the club that could affect his eligibility. NCAA rule says that anyone who “accepts any remuneration or permits the use of his or her name or picture to advertise, recommend or promote directly the sale or use of a commercial product or service of any kind” is ineligible.

Evans and Thamel report

- Several of the videos promote events at a Baton Rouge Club called The Palace. One in particular encourages viewers to attend an Era Nation party at the club on March 10, 2012. Mathieu appears in the video, and an event promoter says “the whole LSU football team” will be there. A flyer for the party has two photographs of Mathieu in his LSU jersey and describes the event as an Era Nation Album Release Party for Tyrann Mathieu (It also features photographs of former LSU standout Mo Clairborne and current LSU sophomore Anthony Johnson who are listed as party hosts). Note: When asked about it, Johnson denied any involvement; Clairborne says he was aware of the party but did not attend.

- In another video Mathieu is onstage at The Palace talking on a mic about the club’s chicken wings and fries. A source closely affiliated with the club told SI that Mathieu received access to the club’s VIP area: “Every time he came, we let all the football players, like his teammates, in for free.”

- Mathieu is also featured on a flyer for a January 14, 2012 party at Club H20 in New Orleans.

Several people discussed the athlete’s drug use
- Said Mathieu’s father Darrin Hayes, who is serving a life sentence in prison for murder, in a letter to SI: “Tyrann has a drug problem. I expected more out of him because he know how I lost everything behind drugs.”

The Era Nation Crew

Late in high school Mathieu and his friends formed a group they called Era Nation comprised of self-described athletes, rappers and songwriters. Mathieu stayed close to the crew from high school to LSU, even as he became a national star. Over the last year Mathieu has appeared in multiple videos online that show he and the Era Nation crew at clubs, partying.

On Mathieu’s Future

“I don’t know what triggers life may bring,” says Lucas when discussing the complexities of Mathieu’s future. “This isn’t about smoking weed, this is about what life shoots you and you handle it without medicating your failures or medicating your success.” Mathieu is expecting a baby boy in January. 


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