The Arizona Cardinals defensive back discussed his heartbreak over Smith's senseless murder and the growing issues with violence in New Orleans during Monday's appearance on NFL Network's NFL Total Access. Mathieu is a New Orleans native who attended college at LSU.
"New Orleans is a great place, a place of celebration," Mathieu told NFL Network's Dan Hellie. "But on the other hand, there's a reality to it, there's violence, there's misguided youth. There's no structure, there's no programs, there's nothing for these kids to do after school but to hang on the corner with gangbangers and drug dealers and those are the people they begin to look up to.
"So for me, I'm going to continue to speak out and I'm going to continue to raise awareness about this."
After learning of Smith's death, Mathieu sent out a series of tweets Sunday on what he sees as the social decay in New Orleans that has spawned the type of violence that took Smith's life at age 34.
"I don't regret anything I said, any tweet that I said," Mathieu said. "I'm a very mindful 23 year old. I try to speak from a place of understanding and most times I'm speaking from a place of experience. I don't take back anything I said. Everything I said was 100 percent true. The violence in New Orleans is erupting and it's continuing to grow at an alarming rate.
"I think the death of Will Smith triggered my emotions. ... It's not about that one incident. This happens time and time again, and most of the time it gets overlooked."
Mathieu added that the culture in the city has regressed to the point that "a lot of people think killing is a cool thing."
Mathieu expressed a desire to use his foundation and celebrity to make a difference in a community he's now afraid to visit because of escalating violence.
"It's only so few of us that have a chance to make it out," he said. "Even myself, you look back at my history, I've bumped my head so many times and most of those things were personal decisions I made, that it was a culture that created those decisions. I thought that everything I was doing was OK. I thought that smoking marijuana was OK.
"And I thought I could get by off pure talent, so we have to redirect, restructure these kids to thinking those things aren't cool anymore. Going to school is cool, being accountable is cool, being responsible is cool. Those things are the cool things to do."
Powerful stuff from Mathieu.