Mizzou quarterback Maty Mauk's time is now -- and he's ready for it
COLUMBIA, Missouri. -- The roar thundered through Georgia's Sanford Stadium.
Missouri clung to a 28-26 lead against Georgia with 10:35 left in the fourth quarter last Oct. 12. The Bulldogs were making their move and Mizzou's perfect season was about to go bust.
Mike Mauk watched from the corner pocket of Missouri fans there in Athens, but didn't notice quarterback James Franklin had been hurt under a stampede of Georgia linebackers on the opposite sideline -- until he got a phone call from someone watching on TV.
Maty was going in. Missouri's redshirt freshman, Mike's youngest of three sons, didn't have any air in his helmet. His chinstrap wouldn't stay buckled. His legs were stiff, his arm barely loose. But it was Mauk's job to maintain the Tigers' lead -- and their unblemished record -- with a ferocious pack of Bulldogs across the line of scrimmage.
"He spent all that time lifting and training and working out and throwing and getting ready his whole life," Mike said. "It was showtime, time to do what he was there to do."
You know the rest. Mauk entered the game on third and 6 and ran behind his blockers on a quarterback draw for the first down. A play later, a double pass, from Mauk to Bud Sasser to L'Damian Washington, stretched the Tigers' lead to 34-26. They went on to win 41-26. Mauk was more caretaker than hero that day at Georgia, but that was a footnote under the bigger headline developing.
Over the next month while Franklin's battered right shoulder healed, Mauk led Mizzou to three wins in four starts, keeping the Tigers' first place lead in the SEC East before he handed the job back to Franklin for the season's final four games.
Mauk was far from perfect in his four-game apprenticeship. His wins came against the three worst SEC teams on the schedule: Florida, Tennessee and Kentucky. He attacked defenses vertically, sometimes to a fault when safer passes would do.
But for Mike Mauk, who coached his son to high school stardom and shattered records in Kenton, Ohio, the defining mark of Mauk's 2013 season came during the third arc of Mizzou's season -- not the second. Some fans clamored for Gary Pinkel to stick with Mauk once Franklin was cleared to return. Mauk quietly accepted his place back in Franklin's shadow.
"It would have been a very selfish thing on Maty's part to say, 'What about me?' " Mike said. "But I didn't raise him to be a person that focuses on himself. It's about the team. Coach Pinkel made the right choices. He did what was best for the team in that situation.
"I told Maty, 'You do the best you can to help that team be successful, even if it's just pat [Franklin] on the back and encourage the team coming off the field.' That's what he did."
Maty's time would come, Mike figured.
Now it has.
Mike Mauk never intended for his sons to become two of the most prolific passers in high school football history. Heading into the 2001 season at Kenton High School, Mike's middle son, Ben, was his quarterback. The team didn't have a running back but was loaded with fast, lanky receivers. Mike had an idea.
"Let's put things together where we throw the football and maybe it's the only thing we do," he said.
MATY MAUK AS MIZZOU STARTER IN 2013
MATY MAUK AS MIZZOU STARTER IN 2013
By the time Ben's high school career was over, he'd led Kenton to consecutive state championships and set national passing records for attempts, completions and yards. Mike heard the whispers around central Ohio, that he rigged the offense to showcase his son. Nonsense, Mike still insists more than a decade later.
"It has been and always will be about winning," Mike said.
In 2008, along came Maty. Born into a football family -- Mike and Gwyn's oldest son, Jonathan, was a linebacker and played for Division III Anderson University -- Maty took over the five-wide no-huddle offense as a freshman and led Kenton to four conference titles. After guiding Kenton to a 42-8 record during four seasons, Mauk had eclipsed his brother's records and held the national marks for career passing yards, completions, touchdown passes and total offense.For his career, Mauk threw for 18,932 yards, which equates to more than 10 and a half miles.
Maty, 21, grew up idolizing Ben, 29, who later became his high school position coach after playing in college at Wake Forest and Cincinnati.
"I sit back and watch him still," Mauk said. "He has his DVDs at the house and we'll sit and watch them quite a bit. I can really pick up things, whether it's how he sets his shoulders to throw or how he uses his eyes to move safeties."
Mike is now the head coach at Glendale High School in Springfield, Mo., with Ben coaching his quarterbacks. After securing Mizzou's starting job during spring practices, Mauk spent his offseason working with the coach he knows best -- not at some guru's pricey passing camp on the beach.
Ben has "been through everything," Mauk said. "He's played in college. I don't need anything else. And he's just a phone call away. And I don't have to pay [him] $1,000."In three preseason scrimmages, Mauk completed just 50.1 percent of his passes -- far from the 70-percent range he wants to hit this season. With a revamped receiver corps, Mauk's first season as the full-time starter could hit some turbulence. But there's no questioning the 6-foot quarterback's popularity among his teammates.
"Don't get me wrong, James was a great dude, a great leader," senior receiver Darius White said. "But Maty's more -- I want to say, with everyone. He tries to get to know everyone and hangs out with everyone. He tries to make everyone better on the field."
Pinkel has described Mauk's leadership style as "non-threatening."
"You can't have a guy going absolutely insane," senior left tackle Mitch Morse said. "He's really poised. We're all going to make our mistakes. He picks our teammates up rather than us having to pick him up, which is exceptional to see."
Before he rescued what became MU's 12-2 season last year, there were questions about Mauk's maturity shortly after he arrived at Mizzou. His first week of college in August 2012, he was arrested for leaving the scene of an accident when he crashed his scooter into a parked car -- with two female companions along for the late-night joyride. Internet memes did their best to make Mauk out to be Missouri's junior version of Johnny Manziel.
Mauk has since adjusted to the fishbowl life of a celebrity athlete in a college town. His chance has arrived.
"You get to college and you're going to do things," he said, vaguely referencing past youthful missteps. "But I've matured a lot. I'm ready to take over as the leading guy of our offense and hopefully the team, too. I hope guys look up to me. That's what I want. I want to be that guy for them."