But what's good for Era Nation may not be helping Mathieu. Several of the Era Nation 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 Claiborne and current LSU sophomore defensive tackle Anthony Johnson, who are listed as the party's hosts. Johnson denied any involvement; Clairborne says he was aware of the party but did not attend.
In another video Mathieu is on stage at The Palace in front of a large crowd, using a microphone to talk about the club's chicken wings and fries. Somebody 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," said the person. He added that Mathieu knew his photo would be used on the promotional flyer for the March 10 party. He identified Johnson and other LSU football players as visitors who received special treatment. Johnson declined to comment about receiving any benefits.
Brooks told SI that Era Nation received access to the club's VIP area. "We always were going to have an area for us," he says.
Mathieu is also featured on a flyer for a Jan. 14, 2012, party at Club H2O in New Orleans. The flyers and videos may be a violation of NCAA rule 126.96.36.199, which 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. A veteran compliance officer with no direct knowledge of Mathieu's case says that any penalties would depend on how commercial the videos were, whether Mathieu knew what they were being used for and if he received any illicit benefits, which would violate a separate NCAA rule. "If this guy is in the video in an attempt to draw people to the place," says the officer, "that's not permissible." LSU says the school, including coach Les Miles, is unaware of players using their images to promote events or receiving extra benefits.
Former NBA player John Lucas has counseled young athletes with drug problems, mental issues and even financial difficulties. Two days after Mathieu got thrown off the LSU team, he was with Lucas in Houston to start rehab. (Lucas had spent a few days with Mathieu earlier in the summer but declines to specify why.) Lucas's first request for the Honey Badger: Cut the trademark highlights out of his hair, or "that blond crap," as Lucas called it. Mathieu agreed and has followed all orders since.
Lucas would not call Mathieu a marijuana addict, but he says he treated Mathieu as if he were an addict, putting him in an inpatient recovery facility where the other 20-plus patients were addicted to Oxycontin and "mind-altering chemicals." At the sparsely furnished six-house facility, Mathieu slept in a cramped room on a twin bed for two weeks. Lucas laughs at the memory of how much Mathieu hated it, but he felt that Mathieu needed to see how bad it can get. "Just because you're at the Four Seasons doesn't mean you're a better drug addict than the guy at the Motel 6," Lucas says.
After inpatient rehab Mathieu stayed for two more weeks of counseling, and Tyrone and Sheila spent two weekends on-site to participate. Lucas declined to comment on the family dynamics, citing confidentiality, but he conceded there were "big issues."
When asked about those issues, Tyrone said, "It's more of a crisis for us to get our child back on track than sit and tell a story."
There may be more complications in store for Tyrann. According to several family members, he is expected to become the father of a boy in January. "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 how you handle it without medicating your failures or medicating your success."
Miles has seen players struggle to distance themselves from childhood friends. "It's a very difficult thing to prioritize success, education and football above your family and friends. The ability to say, 'No, I can't be with you now,' and what they want to say is, 'Now wait a minute, I grew up with you. This is who I am. This is who we are.' That evolution is a very tough one."