- Gerry Hamilton, ESPN Staff Writer
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BEAVERTON, Ore. -- One of the many NFL players on hand at The Opening this week is former LSU All-American safety Tyrann Mathieu.
While Mathieu is most known for his two seasons with the Tigers and as an Arizona Cardinals defensive back, he played high school football at New Orleans St. Augustine, the same high school that produced 2014 No. 1 recruit and current LSU freshman Leonard Fournette.
"I grew up with him," Mathieu said. "I know his dad real well. He could never play park ball, he was always bigger than everybody else. So the parents would always say he's too big, they would write letters to the state. He couldn't play football so he always had to play what we called all-star football. They travel the state and play football."
It's not just that Fournette was big, but it was his natural strength that impressed Mathieu.
"I knew he was a grown man when I was in the 12th grade and he was in the 8th grade, he was always bigger than me and he (punched me in the chest) and it hurt a little bit. I didn't know if he was playing or serious because it hurt that bad. He has always been strong,"
Mathieu believes Fournette will not struggle with expectations that are already bordering on the unrealistic.
"I think he's hungry. I think he has what I didn't have, he has a great support system already. They've always been a great support system for him. He believes in himself and the people around him believe in him. The thing is, he can't get down. I had great years at LSU, but every time I played Alabama I wasn't the same guy. So you're going to have bad games but you just can't down about it."
Now in a position to give younger players advice to help them not make the same mistakes he did, Mathieu recently had a conversation with Fournette about dealing the distractions and walked away impressed.
"I already told him," Mathieu said. "It's going to be a lot of hype, the girls. You're wearing the No. 7, they don't just let anybody wear No. 7. I told him to just stay balanced through it all, don't get too high or low. He's going to be all right."
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