NEW ORLEANS — Honey Badger don’t care.
Randall does. He’ll be cheering for LSU in the BCS championship game.
A self-described nature enthusiast who only gives his first name, Randall told The Associated Press on Sunday that he’s picking the top-ranked Tigers and their All-American cornerback and returner, Tyrann Mathieu — the guy who’s been nicknamed the “Honey Badger” for his fearless play.
“Jumping and leaping and doing the things he does, it’s crazeee!” Randall said in a telephone interview from his Southern California home, sounding just as excited and awestruck as he does in his famous video. “He just plays with such heart and such vigor. It’s just very exciting. To me, that embodies the honey badger. He just takes whatever he wants and nothing is going to stop him.”
Randall, of course, became a viral Internet sensation with his hilarious narration of a staid nature video showing the honey badger, an African creature once described by the Guinness Book of World Records as the fiercest animal in the world.
The video has received more than 31 million hits on YouTube and sparked a cottage industry that includes T-shirts, a television commercial and a book coming out Jan. 24, “Honey Badger Don’t Care,” Randall’s guide to 10 of the craziest, nastiest animals in the wild.
Mathieu is only 5-foot-9 and 175 pounds, but he was a Heisman finalist as a sophomore and starred for the Tigers on both defense and special teams, scoring four touchdowns and creating havoc all over the field. Just like a honey badger might do, if the little creature knew how to return punts instead of chasing jackals and fighting cobras.
Early on, Mathieu wasn’t exactly thrilled about his new nickname. But he came to embrace it when both he and his namesake emerged as national sensations. The Tigers (13-0) will face No. 2 Alabama (11-1) in the title game Monday night at the Superdome.
“Honey badger is such a relentless animal,” Mathieu said. “He’s fierce. And he definitely doesn’t fear anything. So I just try to take the same approach to the field, and just try to play smart and violent football for my team.”
According to Randall, the moniker is a perfect fit for Mathieu.
“I have never seen anyone in any sport who has dominated to the point he has,” Randall said. “He is very worthy of that nickname. He really just does whatever he wants. It’s crazeee!”
While Randall concedes that he’s not much of a football fan, he has come to like the Tigers this season and even had a vision about who’s going to win the championship game.
“It came to me in a dream,” he said. “I don’t know what’s going on, but I swear in this dream I’m watching the game and I saw the final score after the fourth quarter of the game was done. LSU was on top, 35-10.”
Randall said his father was a cameraman on Mutual of Omaha’s long-running show “Wild Kingdom,” which sparked his interest in nature. His friends soon recognized a natural gift for witty (if profanity-spiked) narration, which he uses to give his own take on sometimes dull videos featuring the honey badger and all sorts of other exotic animals.
But it’s that snarling little creature, which Randall marvels “is about the size of a Jack Russell,” that captured everyone’s imagination. Maybe the honey badger’s popularity stems from the tough economic times so many people have been through.
“When you stop and realize what’s going on in our society, it kind of makes sense,” Randall said. “This animal really struck a nerve with the people. I think the people can’t get enough of it. Finally, here’s this animal that’s just not gonna take it anymore. That’s where we’re headed. A lot of folks are fed up with the situation they’ve been given in this country.”
While some may argue that other animals are more fearless, Randall has no doubts that honey badger stands alone.
“The same feeling I get when I’m watching Tyrann play, that’s what I get when I’m watching honey badger,” Randall said. “There’s no other animal that comes to mind that’s this aggressive. It really sets out to get what it wants. It doesn’t really care about anyone else in the animal kingdom. I was blown away when I saw that video.
“I’ve seen normal wildlife films of lions attacking gazelles and gross stuff like that. But the little honey badger is getting stung by bees and bitten by cobras and it just gets back up and keeps walking. I’ve never seen anything like that. It’s unbelievable. I’m just in awe on the honey badger. Absolute awe.”