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SMITH COLUMN: Good character important part of any program

August 12, 2012

Smith

The Honey Badger took a hit last week.

As good as Tyrann Mathieu was on the football field, he could not avoid the off-the-field downfall that led to him being dismissed by the LSU Tigers on Friday.

LSU officials said that Mathieu was no longer a part of the team for breaking an athletic department rule.

Mathieu, who was once considered a serious Heisman Trophy candidate, must now try to rebuild his reputation and find a program that will take a chance on acquiring his services. He visited McNeese State Friday night and it has been reported that Prairie View A&M and Jackson State might be on his radar.

It's unfortunate that a player with so much potential can get into the type of trouble that leads to these situations.

Mathieu will probably still find his way to the National Football League one day, but his actions have certainly hampered any further success on the college level.

It appears that those in charge of the Bayou Bengals made the right decision in this case.

If Mathieu was not willing to abide by the rules, then it wasn't worth keeping him around. It just doesn't set a very good example for the rest of the squad.

Without a doubt, Mathieu made LSU a better team on the field, but what would have happened if he had stayed and more issues developed. It probably would have gone from bad to worse so it's good they cut ties with him now.

Good character is an important part of any program.

At Mississippi State, coach Dan Mullen said last week at the school's on-campus media day that it's important to find the right fit when bringing in the next group of Bulldogs.

Character issues do come up when Mullen and his staff go on the recruiting trail, but it's not just about checking a prospect's legal past.

"It's also about work ethic, getting a degree and doing the right thing on and off the field," Mullen said. "Our coaches do a good job about evaluating the people we go after. We hit a lot more now than we miss. There are a variety of character issues we look for."

No things are not perfect in Starkville. There are some issues that come up from time to time, but things do appear to be more settled here than in other areas of the country.

When stopping to consider the last two NFL Drafts, Mississippi State has sent two quality players with solid character to the next level in defensive lineman Fletcher Cox and offensive lineman Derek Sherrod. The Bulldogs should make it three-for-three next spring when former East Webster player Johnthan Banks gets ready to join the professional ranks.

MSU defensive lineman Kaleb Eulls had already established himself as a hometown hero in Yazoo City after helping defuse a potentially tragic situation with fellow classmates involving a gun on a school bus. His character has been strengthened by being around Bulldog teammates like Cox and Josh Boyd.

"Guys like Fletcher (Cox) and Josh Boyd are great leaders," Eulls said. "You see they go out there and work hard. They push us to work hard. We have high standards to do the best we can.

"We want great people in the program. That's what we're trying to do by working hard on and off the field. We're going to try and do the best that we can."

The numbers of wins on the record does matter, but there's nothing wrong with scoring a few brownie points along the way in the character department.

Danny P. Smith is sports editor and columnist for the Starkville Daily News. The opinions in this column are his and do not necessarily reflect the views of the Daily News or its staff.

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