SB Nation

Scott Salmon | May 2, 2015

Fire on the Field

It is difficult to imagine a childhood more difficult than Lorenzo Mauldin. He grew up with both parents in jail, and bounced between sixteen foster homes. Most people would never recover from that, and they would find it difficult, if not impossible, to succeed. Statistically, most people in his situation end up in jail. But Mauldin isn't like other people.

Mauldin’s mother was an alcoholic and a drug dealer in Atlanta. In 1999, she was convicted of voluntary manslaughter, but was released in 2006, a few months before she was arrested again for aggravated assault. His father is also currently in jail as well.

As a result, Mauldin and his three siblings, two sisters and a brother, grew up alone. They would often spend weeks in their apartment without any adult supervision, before being placed in a foster home. When Mauldin was twelve, he and his siblings would go door-to-door to offer people to bring their garbage to the dumpster, in hopes of raising enough money just to eat.

One of his many foster parents brought him to tryout for the football team, noting that he was a big kid and that he liked to watch his cousin play ball. He was a natural. Despite the odds, Mauldin finished high school while part of a group home and graduated. He had agreed to play for the University of South Carolina, but the day before signing day, seven months after he committed to the team, he was notified that the team no longer had a scholarship for him. They had offered more scholarships than they actually had, and Mauldin was the one to suffer the consequences. As a result, he decided to go to the University of Louisville.

"I don't really have anybody you can call."

There’s a story from his time at Louisville, early on his first year, when Mauldin was injured and had to go to the hospital. He didn’t have any friends, didn’t trust anyone, and didn’t think anyone would visit him. The team chaplain walked in, and asked if Mauldin wanted him to call anybody for him. "I don’t really have anybody you can call," Mauldin responded. The chaplain, Chris Morgan, wrote his name and phone number on a post-it note and stuck it on a copy of a Bible. Mauldin finally had someone he could trust, someone he could call.

Soon after, the rest of the Lousville coaching staff visited him, and Mauldin finally felt like he wasn’t alone anymore. He soon decided to repay Louisville by doing community service. As Morgan stated, "I think as he started to trust people and be vulnerable to people, he opened up. He volunteered to visit hospitals, retirement homes, inner-city community centers, middle schools, high schools, group homes. He relates to everyone."

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Sports Illustrated noted that Mauldin "was clocking three visits a week, but the school still had a constant backlog of requests for Mauldin appearances. He logged so many community service hours in four years that the school stopped keeping track. And Mauldin stopped involving administration, taking younger teammates to hospitals without the direction or instruction of Louisville staff."

This same passion is what defines Mauldin on the field. He's a maniac who gives it 100% every snap of every game. Arguably his best trait is his motor; a guy that never quits, no way, no how. It's how he's made it through life and it's how he plays the game.

Fast forward a few years, and Mauldin was scheduled to graduate Louisville. After a hard journey that would have doomed most people, Mauldin reportedly laid his cap and gown out, and began to cry as he looked back over his life. That same emotional outpouring came again last night when the New York Jets drafted him. While on a conference call with the team’s beat reporters, he started crying again. "I'm going to show 'em what I got. I'm going to shut up all the critics, everyone who's ever doubted me," he said. "This is my chance to show everybody… to show everybody what I can do!"

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