For two seasons with the Tigers, he played it that way - instinctively and with passion, and it made him an All American and Heisman Trophy finalist. He always seemed a half-step, or fraction of a second, ahead of those around him.
Now that it's been taken away by his dismissal from the team last August for positive drug tests, and derailed further by an Oct. 25 arrest for marijuana possession, Mathieu likens his situation to baseball.
He's a batter standing at the plate with two strikes. If he can't handle the next pitch, he'll never play again.
Mathieu is now spending his days here in the idyllic climes of South Florida's East coast, trying to make his last pitch count. He's not hitting the beaches or clubbing at nights. He's on a strict regimen of physical workouts and self-improvement.