Life’s a lot more rewarding these days for Aaron Maybin.
For one thing, the loquacious Jets linebacker is coming off his best season as a pro. For another, he, like most of the other players at his position and on the team, has been reshaping his body.
“It’s really just been a grind, man, and I’m definitely able to see the benefits,” Maybin told me in the Atlantic Health Jets Training Center locker room following Thursday’s final OTA practice. “A couple of people on the team, some coaches can tell, just by looking at me, the change from one year to the next.
“I just talked to Bill [Hughan, head strength coach] and he said I’m starting to get right around where they want me, right around 250 now. It’s great to be so close to my goal so early in the offseason.”
Compare this to his 229 pounds when he first arrived as a Jet last August, or the “220 soaking wet” when he was making headlines at Penn State and building toward his 11th-pick-of-the-draft status with Buffalo in 2009.
“I’m still 3 percent body fat. All my numbers are where they were,” he said. But has he lost any of his trademark speed? “If anything,” he replied, “I’m faster. I feel as explosive as I’ve ever felt.”
On another front, Maybin has become one of the most popular Jets. He’s made charity appearances with teammates this offseason and always draws a crowd. In the locker room, he’s a must-stop for reporters who want a smart, well-thought-out quote (for the print folks) offered up in his resonant baritone of a speaking voice (for the audio/video people).
He said he mentioned “two words” about having a few meals with Olympic gold-medal swimmer Michael Phelps this offseason and that line of questioning became the lead of Brian Costello’s story in the New York Post. In part the draw was due to Phelps. In part it was the rising star that is Maybin.
Aaron is a shining example of why it’s always premature to slap the B-word on almost any player after two seasons in the NFL. It’s ancient history to remind everyone that Maybin had no sacks his first two seasons and was cut loose by the Bills to ultimately come to the Jets. Sure, that part sounds like “bust,” but his six sacks, four forced fumbles — tied for fifth in the NFL — and team-high 24 QB pressures in limited playing time for the Jets in ’11 sure doesn’t.
Not all NFL rookies are made the same. Maybin’s one of those guys who needed time to sort things out, to really come to grips with that time-worn football phrase, “Don’t try to control the things you can’t control.”
“If you lose the idea that this is a kids’ game, what are you really doing?” he said. “For a while I may have gotten away from that, putting too much pressure and expectations on myself.
“I was thinking too much, I wasn’t feeling like myself because I felt I wasn’t in the right position. Stop thinking so much, get back to having fun, bring your kind of energy to the game. It took a while for me to get this game that I love. Now I love coming to work every day with these guys.”
Maybin said where he is now feels kind of like where he wanted to be and should have been from the start of his career.
“Being in that situation where you didn’t have the coaching staff’s trust or you weren’t embraced by the fans, now it’s the complete inverse of that,” he said. “Now the fans embrace you, people here see your work ethic. It’s why you play the game. You hope people see the effort, the amount of hours you put into this thing.”
Let it be stated now that Maybin’s not in this for redemption or personal accolades or proving people wrong. He’ll talk about himself, but he won’t specify his goals and he’ll always remind that it’s about more than just No. 51 in green. He further knows that one eye-popping season out of three doesn’t assure that this coming season will make it 2-for-4.
“I do have personal goals, but none of those goals come before the team anyway,” he said. “I’m just working hard out on the practice field, in the weightroom, in the training room. It’s all just to make sure this upcoming season is as big a season as we can have as a team and myself also.”
But for all those who thought he was too light to throw his weight around in the NFL or didn’t have the right attitude or any of a myriad other criticisms, Maybin has friendly — always friendly — words of advice:
“Keep on doubting. Many a man has lost many a dollar betting against me.”
Tags: Aaron Maybin, Bill Hughan, Michael Phelps
Posted in Randy Lange | 40 Comments »