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Sunday, April 26, 2009

Man of value: Draft falls reveals Maualuga's incredible stripes

BLUE LAKE -- It's a good thing Rey Maualuga had no quarterbacks around him on Saturday. Or quick, shifty running backs. Or tight ends to go out on pass plays.

After he was selected No. 38 overall by the Cincinnati Bengals, the former USC Trojan and consensus best middle linebacker in the country was ready to tackle any and all of the criticisms that kept him out of the first round of the NFL Draft.

”Yes, I was picked in the second round, but I'm going to prove to everybody that they were wrong,” Maualuga said. “I'm going to show all the people who didn't draft me that they should have.”

The knock on him, according to ESPN, who was broadcasting the event, was that he is undisciplined and a liability on passing downs. Despite being voted the best defensive player in the country last year and the face of what many consider the best college defense in history, he wasn't even the first player taken at his own position.

The draft seemed to drag on after San Diego passed on him at No. 16, which was the place he thought he was going. For a long time he sat in a chair and sent text messages on his phone between half-interested glances at the TV screen.

”It wasn't a good feeling,” Maualuga said. “It's not something people enjoy going through, especially when everyone's counting on you. It was crazy went the 16th pick went down. That's where I thought I was going to go. I felt like I let everyone down, like I let myself down.”

As hard as he took it, the disappointment didn't last long. Shortly after he was picked, Maualuga was making the rounds, laughing and chatting up family and friends.

The attitude that is apparently so disconcerting for NFL teams was on display Saturday. Maualuga quickly went from upset to appreciative, humbled even, and that is a result of the values instilled by members of his family.

To them everything happens for a reason, and Saturday's unexpected turn of events were all part of a bigger plan.

”I was just telling him to be patient,” said Maualuga's mother, Tina. “I said just wait, and when they call you then that's your time.”

”We thought he was going to go in the first round, but these things have a way of working out,” said Maualuga's brother, Raymond. “I was encouraging him, telling him 'Don't worry, you'll get picked.' He had higher hopes, but I told him you don't have things go your way all the time.

”If Cincinnati is the place to be, then that's the place to be.”

After what seemed like hundreds of hugs, kisses, high-fives and handshakes -- half of which he admitted came from people he had never met -- Maualuga gave an impromptu speech. He immediately thanked his family and talked about proving all the doubters wrong.

He mentioned his father Talatonu, who died of brain cancer in 2006, and tried to charge through his speech, but he couldn't. He paused as tears filled his eyes and he talked about how much he missed his dad, the man who he said gave him his morals.

”It was good to see my mom happy. She was over there dancing a little bit,” Maualuga said. “Nothing like this was ever expected for our family.

”My dad set the foundation for our family and it's up to me to keep it going.”

Sean Quincey is a Sports Writer. You can reach him evenings at 441-0528 or

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