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Once a Bills Bust, Maybin Brings ‘Mayhem’ to Jets
In and around New York City, Aaron Maybin is living up to his college nickname, “Mayhem,” having registered three sacks and forcing three fumbles in four games for the New York Jets. But in and around Buffalo, he’s considered a bust, an 11th overall pick in 2009 who didn’t tally a single sack in 26 games for the Bills.
A Buffalo News columnist wrote in October 2010 that “it’s quite possible that Maybin is the worst player in the NFL.”
When asked if being described a “bust” bothers him, Maybin said, “Honestly, it’s never bothered and upset me, because I’ve never accepted that.
“I have to believe it, and I’ve never believed that.”
On Sunday, Maybin returns to Ralph Wilson Stadium, a site he’s looking to record a sack for the first time, only this time as a member of the opposing team.
Maybin and the Bills have differing opinions on why he’s wearing New York’s green and white, instead of Buffalo’s blue, white and red. He says the Bills didn’t put him in a position to succeed.
“When you get between five and seven plays a game, that’s not really an opportunity,” Maybin said. “There was something the Bills’ coaching staff didn’t see that Rex Ryan and that coaching staff did.
“Whatever it is, I can’t tell you or put my finger on it. I can sit here and try to focus on why that is. But it doesn’t matter anymore.”
Bills general manager Buddy Nix suggested Maybin’s weight, or lack thereof, was an issue. Maybin showcased his athleticism on a 249-pound frame at the NFL scouting combine, but with the Bills, he hovered around 225, light for a linebacker, let alone a defensive end.
“I don’t know what scheme he fits at that size unless you’re a strong safety or something,” Nix said after the Bills released him in August. “He says it’s his metabolism, but he couldn’t hold weight.”
The Jets had their doubts, too. In his preseason debut with New York, Maybin notched a sack then added 1½ more in the finale, but was released at the end of training camp, largely due to the team’s needs at other positions. He re-signed at the beginning of October.
“We can’t speak for what happened in Buffalo,” Jets defensive coordinator Mike Pettine said. “You get very tunnel vision for your own team. What can make us better? He really provides something for us, that we didn’t have, which was a pass rusher, with an explosive get-off.
“There are a lot of players who labor with a team and end up with another team, and have a new lease on life. At the end of the day, we’re just glad he’s here.”
The Jets’ fourth game was in Baltimore, against the Ravens on a Sunday night.
Maybin grew up in Baltimore, where his father was a longtime firefighter for the city. His mother died in 1995, when Maybin was 6, while giving birth to his sister. So Aaron and Michael Maybin developed a special relationship, father treating son more like a friend.
“My philosophy was to always treat him as an adult from Day 1,” Michael said. “In my house, we didn’t have that ga-ga, goo-goo stuff,” Michael said. “I always pushed him to the brink of what I thought he could understand.”
So Michael explained to Aaron some of the complications with his mother, Constance.
“I came back with his little sister. Then I had to go to him with the information that [his mother] didn’t make it. It wasn’t sugarcoated,” Michael recalled. “At that point, we had to do some serious leaning on each other.
“He comforted me, and I comforted him.”
After the passing of his wife, Michael scrambled to provide for his family. When he was about 12, Aaron remembered having a conversation with his father about the challenges of providing Christmas for the family, comprised of Michael’s remarried wife, Violette, and four children.
“Money was tight,” Aaron said. “I watched him sit in the room, for hours, contemplating how he was going to make it happen.”
Michael woke Aaron around 5 a.m. on Christmas Eve, and they headed out searching for extra work. Michael did odd jobs, from construction to hauling junk.
“We worked that whole day, until our bodies were sore,” Aaron said. “When I got home, I could barely eat and then go to sleep.”
When he dropped Aaron off at home, Michael paid his son for the day’s labor then headed for a double shift at the fire station.
On Christmas morning, the family woke up to a bunch of gifts for everybody under the tree.
Michael, though, slept most of the day.
“That’s the type of man he is,” Aaron said. “He doesn’t feel sorry for himself and count on other people to solve his problems.
“He’s a man’s man.”
On Oct. 24, 2010, there was no such happy ending for Aaron during his homecoming. His snaps were dwindling and he hadn’t tallied a tackle in his previous two games. Aaron was excited to play in front of family and friends, purchasing 25 to 30 tickets to the game against the Ravens. On Saturday night, Aaron’s family even visited with some of the Bills’ coaches.
But 45 minutes before kickoff, Aaron says he was informed that he would be inactive for the game.
“I didn’t think it was a real professional thing to do. Common courtesy was not extended,” Michael said. “That was really hard to take, because he had all those people in the stands. They were asking, ‘What’s going on? What’s going on?’ ”
Michael and many of Aaron’s supporters left before the game ended.
Fast forward nearly a year to Oct. 2. Aaron Maybin is back at M&T Bank Stadium, home of the Ravens, and he notches a sack and a forced fumble.
Aaron Maybin doesn’t care to look back too much, focusing instead on his future. He hasn’t had this much fun playing football since high school, he said, intentionally skipping two years of eligibility at Penn State. (On his experience in Happy Valley, Maybin said you’re not a “grown man” in college. “You’re still a child. You still have a lot of people you’re answering to. Extra responsibilities.”) And despite the disappointment with the Bills, Aaron said he practices the same way he has throughout his NFL career.
“At the end of the day, practice every day lets you know where you’re at,” Maybin said. “I don’t have to read in an article from someone who has no idea what they’re writing about, how good they think I am. I’ve always measured myself as a player, and my confidence is based on my work on the practice field.
“I felt, since I got into the NFL, I’ve played on very talented teams. Regardless of the fact that we weren’t winning in Buffalo, the success they are having now is evidence they had a lot of talent. And practicing against players, and gauging yourself, you have a pretty good idea where you’re at.”
Bills coach Chan Gailey compared Maybin to the Energizer Bunny.
“He keeps going and going and going,” Gailey said. “He plays hard. He hustled here. It wasn’t like he didn’t play hard here. He hustled every snap he was on the field here.
“Maybe the change of scenery was good for him. I don’t know.”
And the Jets, frankly, don’t care.
Pettine said Maybin plays a “very defined role” for the Jets, almost exclusively in pass-rushing situations. The Jets are looking to create mismatches all over the field, and Maybin’s explosive first step and overall speed can torment offensive tackles.
“He came in with a great attitude,” Pettine said. “Everything that happened to him before really humbled him and he came here and there were no expectations.”
Instead, Aaron lingered after practice to get extra work and get comfortable within the defensive scheme.
He didn’t feel the support in Buffalo, but is now being empowered by Ryan and Pettine.
Ryan said Maybin will play more this week against the Bills, and he’ll even be one of the game captains.
“There’s something to be said for that, when a guy has a little bit more of an emotional investment against an opponent,” Pettine said, noting he and Ryan did that quite a bit when they were assistant coaches in Baltimore. “You don’t want to overdo it. We don’t want him out there on situations, where it’s not advantageous. But this is a team that’s going to spread you out and throw the football.”
Jets veteran linebacker Calvin Pace said Maybin has been “even keeled” this week, “But, deep down, he probably wants to get a little revenge.”
Regardless, given what he’s persevered, Aaron Maybin isn’t going to be defined by football.
“I know what it means to have a lot of things go wrong in your life,” he said. “When you have to step back and look at the big picture, you realize football is a game. And as much as I love it, and I bleed, sweat and cry for it, and as much as I put into it, it’s a game that kids play.”
He’s driven to provide for his family, to send his father on a cruise he’d always dreamed of.
“No matter how good or bad things get, there’s always a life outside waiting for you,” he said. “No matter what, I always want people to say that I was a man of character, because of what I did off the field.”
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