Former St. Aug, LSU standout Tyrann Mathieu returns home, continues efforts to ‘shift’ mindsets

A few things have changed for Tyrann Mathieu over the past year and a half.

First, there was the three-year, $42 million deal he signed with the Kansas City Chiefs in March 2019.

Then seven months ago, he earned a Super Bowl ring.

But one thing that hasn’t changed is Mathieu’s willingness to give back to the kids back home.

That’s why he was back in his hometown Saturday, two days after the Chiefs’ season-opening victory over the Houston Texans.

Mathieu was in Elmwood talking to kids who have participated in some of his recent video teleconferences called The Shift.

“It’s all about shifting the mindset, shifting the thought process and changing the narrative of your own life,” said Kyra Luckett, whose 8-year old son, Boston, participated in Saturday’s event.

Boston and his mom wore No. 7 LSU jerseys, the number Mathieu, a St. Augustine High graduate, wore during his playing days with the Tigers.

Mathieu’s well-documented times at LSU weren’t always great for Mathieu. But he’s 28 now and has put the off-field troubles that eventually led to his dismissal from the team far in his rearview mirror. His mission now is to make sure young people today don’t make the same mistakes he did. Mathieu wasn’t made available to the local media during Saturday’s visit, but he has been able to get his message across through the kids he has talked to.

“I learned what he is like as a person and how he dealt with everything he’s gone through in life from high school to college,” said Najeh Bacon, a 16-year old from Baldwin. “It’s just how he made good out of bad. He inspires us to find out who we truly are as a person and he talks to us about making our dreams of getting to the NFL or the Major Leagues.”

Aishala Burgess is the executive director of Truce, the Baton Rouge-based non-profit organization that hosts The Shift calls on Zoom. One of the calls had 75 participants, some from as far away as Arizona.

“It’s growing,” Burgess said. “He’s so transparent about his life and his story and is just so relatable to the mixture of younger kids and the older kids.”

Seeing Mathieu on the computer screen is one thing. Meeting him in person is another.

“I was so pumped up, but I was nervous at the same time,” Bacon said. “But when he talks to you, he always makes you feel like he’s just one of us. He makes you feel like you’re one of his teammates. That makes us comfortable in how we talk to him and how we interact.”

No topics are off limits, something that parents appreciate.

“He is always willing to talk about his challenges and how he had some hiccups,” Luckett said. “But he’s learned from them, and now he wants to do his part to keep guys and girls from going down that same path.”

Mathieu wasn’t all that had the eight kids all wide-eyed on Saturday. The event was held in a garage filled with Ferraris. It is owned by Franco Valovra, who knows Mathieu.

“Tyrann brings kids around, he mentors them, he exposes them to different experiences to make life better,” Valovra said.

So for kids like Boston Luckett, Saturday will be a day to remember. It’s why he ran to the door to get an autograph before Mathieu left.

Luckett wasn’t born when Mathieu played at LSU. But when he was 4, his father, Marc, showed him YouTube videos of the Honey Badger, and he has been his favorite player ever since.

“I look it as I planted the seed, and Tyrann became his favorite player,” Marc Luckett said. “Tyrann came through and watered it.”

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