It started innocently. In August 2011, a Louisiana State fan who went by the online nickname Mike Linebacker decided that the dynamic Tigers cornerback Tyrann Mathieu deserved a nickname more befitting his fearless style of play than Little Ball of Hate — the one he had temporarily been saddled with.
“I know he’s the Little Ball of Hate but the similarities between #7 and the Honey Badger are uncanny,” Mike Linebacker wrote on the L.S.U. message board TigerDroppings.com. He included a link to a humorous faux nature documentary on the honey badger that had gone viral on YouTube.
The nickname stuck, becoming one of the more recognizable in recent sports history, and it became one more example of the strange symbiotic relationship that exists between college football and the online message boards where many of the sport’s most zealous fans gather.