Rey Maualuga (Dave Martin/AP)
Last season, the Jaguars finally paid homage to head coach Jack Del Rio’s alma mater as they selected not one, but two USC Trojans during the second day, in linebacker Thomas Williams and running back Chauncey Washington. This time around, the Jaguars could select a Trojan much sooner.
USC linebacker Rey Maualuga is the closest thing to a college football rock star west of Tim Tebow. The brash, long haired Trojan middle linebacker supplied all the big hits and big plays that his top-ranked USC defense needed all season long. For his efforts, Maualuga earned first team All-America honors, not to mention the Bednarik Award, which is given to the nation’s best linebacker.
The 6’2”, 254 lb. Polynesian looked up to former Chargers and Patriots linebacker Junior Seau growing up, and hopes that he will accomplish some of what the future hall-of-famer did.
“Junior has been in the league for a while, and when I was a little kid, Junior was playing, he was the big name,” Maualuga told JagNation. “It gives hope to us kids. As for me, god blessed me with the body and the ability to be this big. I’m going to use this talent that I got and hopefully I can be an inspiration to a lot of younger Polynesian players and a couple years from now hopefully they’ll be talking about me.”
Most of the country talks about Rey, as he has been a playmaker and the heart and soul of the Trojans defense en route to two consecutive Rose Bowl victories.
Maualuga is already familiar with the Jaguars coaching staff including Jack Del Rio, as he was able to work with him on the South team during Senior Bowl week.
“It’s awesome,” Maualuga said of working with Del Rio. “It’s great having an ex-Trojan, and for my four years, getting to see his Fathead picture in the linebacker room. We didn’t know we’d get coached by him and it’s a great honor to be here and be coached by the staff. It’s just like SC with the practices. Coach Carroll has prepped us to play at the highest intensity on the NFL level and we’ve been good at it so far.”
Although many of the top players decided to pull out of the Senior Bowl at the last moment, Maualuga seemed to relish the trip.
“It was easy, it’s a once in a lifetime opportunity to come and compete with the elite, the best players in the country,” Rey told JagNation in an exclusive interview. “One of the big factors was that I wanted to get discovered. Most of the big coaches knew who my name was, but they didn’t know how I compete and how I come out here and practice with the best players. I just want to come out here and show what I got and present what I have to offer and hopefully something good will come out of that.”
With the Jaguars going to a more hybrid defense in 2009, the team needs a linebacker who can excel in both roles and Maualuga is familiar with both schemes.
“I talked to a bunch of teams and they asked if I was a “Mike” linebacker and if I was comfortable with a 4-3 scheme,” said the USC standout. “Coach Carroll has put in both a 3-4 and 4-3 schemes at SC so I’m kind of familiar with both.”
Rey was asked if he had a preference, and he gave a very political answer—
“It wouldn’t matter where I play at, just give me some pads and a helmet and I’ll give everything I got. Most of the time it’s been a 4-3 defense at USC, and like I said, just give me a playbook whether it’s a 3-4 or a 4-3, it won’t take me long to adjust to it.”
Rey Maualuga is the most notorious of the USC linebackers, as he along with Brian Cushing and Clay Matthews, Jr. were clearly the best three backers in the nation on one team. Rey believes that each players made the others better.
“We push each other a lot,” Maualuga said. “We push each other by the way we play and compete in practice. Off the field we don’t talk about ‘I’m better than you, I’m going to get drafted higher than you’, we let our play speak for ourselves. I know if I get to the ball first, Cushing’s mindset is, ‘I’m going to get to the ball next time.’”
Although most mock drafts have Maualuga in the 10-15 range, don’t be surprised if he is the Jaguars selection when they go on the clock at pick number eight. Linebackers are one of the safest positions in the draft, and Rey can start for the team from day one, regardless of whether they play a 3-4 or a 4-3.
Charlie Bernstein is the Editor-in-Chief of Sports Media Interactive, covering multiple teams in the National Football League, NCAA, and National Basketball Association. Charlie is a regular syndicated contributor to FoxSports and Sirius NFL Radio, and has been featured on the NFL Network. Charlie is also a member of the Pro Football Writers of America. Feel free to contact him -HERE- with questions or comments.
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