As the New York Jets undergo organized team activities, linebacker Lorenzo Mauldin is ready to make an even bigger impact in 2016 as he sits with The Jet Press in an exclusive interview.
Linebacker Lorenzo Mauldin of the New York Jets is ready to make some serious noise this upcoming season. The second-year standout is going to be have the opportunity to become an every down player and start making consistent impact plays. You remember, like he did in the 2015 opener vs the Cleveland Browns, in which he forced a fumble off quarterback Johnny Manziel.
That timely play quickly turned into something else though because, after forcing the fumble, he suffered an apparent neck injury, was rendered unconscious for a few minutes, carted off the field, and found himself in a local hospital. The worst was feared, and watching the play unfold, indeed, a collective gasp went through the stadium. He soon bounced back and once the concussion protocol was met, he was soon back on the field and contributing in subsequent games. Luckily, Mauldin is no stranger to “bad luck” and taking hit both on and off the field.
At a young age of two-years-old, Mauldin was already dealing with issues due to his father being in jail and his mother disappearing for long stretches of time in and out of jail, dealing drugs and appearing to forget she had four children. By the time Mauldin was seven, his mother was convicted of voluntary manslaughter and sentenced to 20 years in prison.
Mauldin was then adopted with all of his siblings to live happily ever after, right? Wrong. The only thing that was in his corner, was the resilient boy continued to grow taller and stronger, which also made him ready for anything thrown his way. He was unfortunately split up from his siblings, tossed to about 16 foster home placements, which rather than make him bitter, gave him the ability to look at things people take for granted as a luxury.
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Some of the foster parents would pocket the monthly check instead of buying clothes for him, resulting in him wearing duct tape shoes and being a target of embarrassment and bullying.
He took what was presented, would find ways to make money and survive.
Mauldin found the secret of what ultimately made him happy, which was playing sports at Maynard H. Jackson High School in Atlanta.
He somehow managed to excel at three sports despite the stressed that faced him outside of school.
He was well recruited and it seemed that things were taking a turn for the better. Even then, he took another hit having to change colleges at the last minute due to a scholarship no longer being available for him.
Committed at first to South Carolina, he then ended up in Louisville. While he developed on the football field, he still was embarrassed to think of what others might perceive of his life and he kept his struggles to himself.
It was not until he was injured in a game and asked to notify family that the sweat and tears of his life were sampled. At the 2015 NFL Draft, everyone else had a chance to sample it as well, when Mauldin was drafted in the third round. Besides a personal achievement, his story also offered hope to everyone that they too, have the ability to hope and that you do not have to become a product of your environment.
Photo property of Hillary Garza and used by permission for TheJetPress.com
Touching back on the injury from the opening game, Mauldin was blessed to have suffered only a concussion. He spent the rest of his rookie season working as an apprentice making 15 game appearances resulting in 10 tackles, four sacks and a fumble recovery.
Dedicated to learning the pro game as a pass-rushing specialist/linebacker, he continued to work hard and learn on the job. Mauldin was fully aware he will not have the luxury third-round picks normally have of easing into an expanded role, but considering everything he went through in life, who needs luxury to make it far? He’s already ahead of the curve in just a year in the NFL.
I had the chance to interview Mauldin as he gives fans of the Jets everywhere a glimpse into his past, present and future:
HG: Many kids can relate to your rough childhood, being tossed home to home, and are to the point of having so much anger and sadness within, almost giving up on life. What would tell them?
LM: You have to keep your head down and keep running. Find the secret that keeps you going, to me that was football. Never bite the hand that feeds you! You never know when your going to look back and see how they really impacted your life and may need them in the future. Treat everyone with respect and have positive relationships.
HG: You are no longer the rookie! How do you feel about the draft picks and what advice would you give to them.
LM: We drafted some good young fast and talented players. It’s a big step for them. I would say play hard, give it everything you have and do not pass up this opportunity. Not many have a chance to live their dream, don’t take it for granted.
HG: What would your fans about your second season?
LM: I submerged myself in learning and growing with great coaches and members on my team. There is a lot of positive to look out for next year. I’ve always played with my heart and gave it my all for my entire life and that won’t change. My fans can continue high expectations, I won’t fail.
Nov 29, 2015; East Rutherford, NJ, USA; New York Jets outside linebacker Lorenzo Mauldin (55) hits Miami Dolphins quarterback Ryan Tannehill (17) In the 2nd half at MetLife Stadium.The Jets defeated the Dolphins 38-20. Mandatory Credit: William Hauser-USA TODAY Sports
HG: I just want to thank you for taking time to talk to fans like my son, comparing hand sizes with him and being a positive role model for young boys. Your past is just a foundation of what gave you the drive to evolving into a legend.
LM: No problem, that is what is about. Making a positive impact and showing kids results of hard work and how it pays off. Keep focused! I kept my head down and kept running through life obstacles, now I have my head up high. I have family and friends and built a positive life.
This season is going to be huge for Mauldin, as he appears just as if not more important than any other player drafted this year. And that’s because the Jets need him now to ensure they have a lethal pass rush. This hard worker has the key qualities: passion, drive and ability to be a full-time player as a linebacker. If he can overcome what it takes to survive as a child, he can use those attributes to not only survive but to have a huge sophomore season.