Some Body Of Work

Ken Murray

Diligence Has Paid Off For Maybin, Defensive End-linebacker From Ellicott City

Draft 2009 -- Five Days To Go

April 20, 2009|By KEN MURRAY | KEN MURRAY,ken.murray@baltsun.com

At first glance, the path Aaron Maybin took to the NFL draft seems stunning and capricious. The Ellicott City native stayed just three years at Penn State, only one as a starter and that after a teammate was suspended early in the season.

But surprise and caprice played almost no role in the making of Maybin, a 21-year-old defensive end-linebacker whose explosive first step will carry him into the first round of Saturday's draft.

Not when his father covered more than 40,000 miles in a van he bought specifically for the purpose of investigating potential colleges for his son.

Not when the elder Maybin factored in Aaron's leg room in the van before making the purchase.

And not when Aaron wrote a letter - as a sophomore at Mount Hebron High - to his football coach to say his dream was to play linebacker for Penn State.

Put that all together and you have a journey that started sometime in Maybin's ninth-grade year with a conversation he had with his father.

"He said he wanted to go to college," Mike Maybin recalled last week. "I told him, 'You've got two choices - get a scholarship or go into the military.' "

Maybin, a lean, long athlete, earned that scholarship to Penn State with only a few speed bumps. One came halfway through that freshman year at Mount Hebron, when Mike Maybin pulled his son off the wrestling mat in mid-practice one day after report cards came out.

"He brought me a D," Mike said. "I don't do D's."

Suffice it to say, the Maybins didn't plot just an athletic road map to the big time, they dialed up academics, too. Aaron followed the map dutifully. At Mount Hebron, he excelled in sports but also found time to do community work, participate in drama programs and show a flair for art. He didn't bring home another D.

For all his impressive attributes, the one that stood out to most people was Maybin's work ethic. He wasn't going to be outworked in anything. He came back to finish the wrestling season but wrestled only one more year - as a junior - finishing fourth in the state heavyweight class despite giving away 60 pounds to his opponents at 215.

Although he played basketball one year, too, he knew football was his ticket. He was a Sun All-Metro pick and second-team All-State selection as a senior, posting 19 sacks over his last two years.

Nobody I ever coached worked harder in the weight room," Larry Luthe, Maybin's coach at Mount Hebron, said. "Put that with his God-given ability and he took it as far as it could be taken."

Going into Maybin's sophomore year, Luthe told the youngster he hoped he would step up to play varsity that year. Maybin responded soon after by writing a letter that detailed his plan to play at Penn State. What impressed Luthe even more was that Maybin never took a play off - even in practice.

Ross Hannon, who replaced Luthe at Mount Hebron, offered similar sentiments when he spoke recently with New York Jets coach and former Ravens defensive coordinator Rex Ryan about Maybin.

"I told Rex nobody will ever outwork him," Hannon said. "I'm not saying he's the best at everything. He's an overachiever, a tough kid. In his four years here, he never had an office referral. He was accountable."

So if Maybin's dream was to play at Penn State, why the van? Why the cross-country junket that covered 40,000 miles? Why a college search?

"It got a little murky once we started being recruited," Mike Maybin said.

According to the father, Maryland showed up early and offered late. It took that cross-country tour and a trip to the Nike football camp at Penn State for the Nittany Lions to offer and Maybin to accept. In the parking lot after the camp, Auburn made a late pitch, too.

In the end, Florida came in a close second. North Carolina and Virginia Tech also made the final cut. Larry Johnson, who recruited Maybin and was his position coach at Penn State, closed the deal.

At Penn State, Maybin majored in integrative arts and communications. On schedule to graduate after three years - until draft preparation took priority - he plans to go back to finish his degree.

When Maybin got onto the field in 2007 after redshirting his freshman year, he showed pass-rush skill off the edge and a lot of hustle. It wasn't until the 2008 season, when Maurice Evans was suspended for an off-campus incident, that Maybin got a starting job.

He made the most of it. His 12 sacks and 20 tackles for losses helped make him a first-team All-American and a finalist for the Ted Hendricks (top defensive end) and Chuck Bednarik (top defensive player) awards.

Johnson discounts the notion that Evans' misdeed was the launch point for Maybin's breakout season.

"I'm not sure it would have mattered," Johnson said. "Aaron would've played whether he was a starter or not. I rotate eight guys; I like to play fresh."

Mike Maybin, who is associate minister at Transformation Church of Jesus Christ on the Baltimore city line, called it "divine intervention," although perhaps only partly in jest.

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