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Mauk Aids in Battle Tougher Than His Own

***This story originally was posted in March, thought it appropriate to repost with his success this season***

Maty Mauk is fighting to be Missouri’s next starting quarterback.  His teammZavala-Mauk-1-225x300ates on offense first list his arm strength as the attribute helping his campaign.

“He’s got a really strong arm, one of the strongest arms I’ve ever seen coming out of high school as a freshman quarterback,” said wide receiver Dorial Green-Beckham. With his skilled arm, Mauk managed to break national high school records in passing yards (18,932), pass completions (1,353) and touchdown passes (219). Although the initial praise went to his arm, his teammates did not overlook his legs. His ability to run helped Mauk rack up 22,681 yards of total offense – also a national record- as a dual threat quarterback in high school.  “He’s fast, he’s quick, he makes good reads. I think he can be unstoppable,” said offensive lineman Evan Boehm.

Teammates say fierce competitiveness is the intangible characteristic facilitating Mauk as a candidate for the starting spot.  Boehm recalled a day at the Mizzou Recreational Fields this past summer.  “We were just messing around playing football with random kids. When we lost, Maty was so mad, like ‘What the-!? Why did we lose this game?!” When asked if this combative behavior was the typical trait of a quarterback, his teammates all said it’s just a typical trait of Maty.

“Even when we’re playing X-box” began Boehm, “And I get a kill on him (and I’m not very good), he gets so angry. His competitiveness comes out. That’s what makes him a good quarterback, always competing, always wanting to do his best.”

Mauk’s inspiration to be the best at anything comes from someone amidst a fight much tougher than the fight to be a starting quarterback of a football team. His driving force comes from someone who has neither a quarter of the arm strength he displays at practice nor the leg strength to even stand. Mauk met Drey Dearing when he was in first grade. Mauk was a manager for his father’s football team in Kenton, OH while Drey hung out on the sidelines as a very young, honorary member of the team. Mauk says this is the last time he remembers Drey being active and still having the ability to run around.

Drey has muscular dystrophy, a genetic disorder that weakens muscle strength. Before Drey reached his teens, he completely lost his leg strength and was conformed to a wheel chair. By the time Drey reaches his early twenties, he will be fighting for his life.

“Growing up, me and all my best friends looked after him,” said Mauk. “I’d do anything for that kid. That’s what drives me.”

“Once Maty gets to talking about Drey you can tell it means a lot to him,” said Boehm. “I’ve never seen him talk or care about one person the way he does for that kid.”

Drey is now a sophomore at Kenton High School. Although he and Maty are separated by hundreds of miles, Maty keeps Drey around Missouri in the form of a t-shirt. A picture of the two is plastered on the front while a bible verse is typed on the back.

Shortly after the end of Missouri’s final loss to Texas A&M, the conclusion of a lackluster, non-bowl eligible season, Mauk got a call from home saying Drey’s health was getting bad.  Drey had already broken his legs twice and was beginning to have trouble eating because of his lack of strength. Mauk made arrangements to go back to Kenton a week before Mizzou’s scheduled winter break.

Back in Kenton, aside from hanging out and playing video games, Mauk said he drove Drey to and from school, brought him lunch and sometimes spent the night at his house.  “I did whatever he wanted to do.”

“Maty’s break was not a comfortable retreat” said his roommate and wide receiver Levi Copelin. “I gained a lot of respect for him.  Drey is like his brother. When his brother wasn’t doing well, Maty was the first person to be there for him.”

Gary Pinkel, who participates in Coaches to Cure Muscular Dystrophy each football season, says Mauk has a lot of compassion. “He’s got a good heart, a big heart. He won’t forget that guy and go on. He’ll be friends with him forever.”

Mauk says he looks forward to the Black and Gold game to not only display the progress he’s made in the quarterback competition but because he will have Drey as extra motivation in the stands.  Drey will aid in Mauk’s fight for the starting spot similar to the way Mauk has helped Drey in his own physical battle.

“Ever since I’ve known him, I’ve wished I could’ve traded him places” said Mauk. “He’s always been the biggest fan of mine and I’m a big fan of his.”

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Pictures from the Knoxville Trip

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I was most amazed by how nice and hospitable the staff was at Neyland stadium. The highlight of the stadium is -hands down- the Peyton Manning funded locker room. It’s probably the nicest looking locker room I’ve ever seen.

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Gainesville Trip Goes Downhill

Gainesville was incredible. Although we didn’t have enough time to experience much of the night life or the popular restaurants, I was still amazed at the beauty of this Florida campus. I’m a sucker for palm trees, tons of sunshine and perfect weather. Besides all the live shots and lugging of equipment, it almost felt like we (Kamen, Marty and I)  had driven seventeen hours to a vacation spot. Our hotel (Days Inn in Starke, FL) was clean and had a brightly colored exterior. It was 80 degrees every day, an escape from the chilly Columbia, Missouri weather. We were trying new things (Kamen and I ate alligator) and eating a food usually mistrusted in mid-Missouri: fish. While Marty and Kamen worked on their live shots, I drove up and down University avenue, admiring all the night life and the amount of options UF students had from which to choose to spend their Friday nights. With so many things to do besides go to class, I asked myself how on earth anyone graduated from this school.

Ben Hill Griffin Stadium looked incredible from the main entrance on University Avenue. Palm trees accompany you down the walkway into the glass front of the almost 90 thousand seating capacity stadium. Statues of UF Heisman Winners on the side of the stadium (Tebow, Spurrier and Wuerffel) posed in a couple of our pictures. Butterflies flapped around my stomach Friday night as I dreamed up of what the inside would look like along with what I’ve seen on TV from previous Florida games played in the Swamp. I liked how the stadium was planted inside of campus. I pictured pools of orange and blue flooding through campus streets on Saturdays as fans filed into the stadium. I loved every second of being in Florida that Friday night.

But Saturday would be ncredibly disastrous.

I don’t know exactly when the Gainesville trip downfall started. Perhaps it was pre-game when the map on the back of our parking pass led us to the wrong place to park and three different police officers led us in three wrong directions. We didn’t get into the press box until 45 minutes before kick-off of the Florida-Missouri game. Perhaps it was during pre-game meal when I discovered I had traces of pancake syrup in my freshly curled hair (girl problems). Maybe it was with 45 seconds left in the 4th quarter of the game when James Franklin threw his fourth interception of the game, resulting in a loss and a handful of mopey football players in post-game interviews for the fifth time this season. Maybe it was because a loud truck was running in the background of all the interviews, messing up all the audio on my twitvids (reporter problems). Maybe it was because we had to skip Satchel’s pizza for live shots on all three shows (6,9, 10pm) on KOMU that night, all three of which were conducted by rookie producers. Two of the live shots were cancelled because Notre Dame’s contract with NBC and careless producing back in Columbia, leaving us with three wasted hours we could’ve been spending eating delicious Satchel’s pizza that STL Post-Dispatch’s Vahe Gregorian raved about from the night before.

Ben Hill Griffin stadium was no longer incredible to me by 11:30pm EST that Saturday night. I was ready to get the heck out of Gainesville, away from the stadium where we had been for what felt like ages. I wanted to shower and rest for the 17 hour drive back to Columbia. As we were packing up the equipment (tripod, a mess of cords, camera, batteries, back-packs), the toughest question of the day is asked: Where are the car keys?

We unpacked everything, we traced all of our steps, looked around the parking lot where the car was parked (about 100yds away from where we were set up for live shots). We looked in bushes, trash cans, in the street. We repeated all of this about seven times until panic eased its way in to our nerves. The keys are impossible to lose, they are designed to not be lost, attached to a big huge blue disc and big black zipper wallet. It was 1 o’clock in the morning and we still couldn’t find them. I was the only one with a phone that wasn’t dead. I texted my mom warning her about the situation, that we might be in Gainesville longer than we expected. These car keys were our only way of getting back to Columbia in the morning. She suggested we call AAA, they could connect us to a locksmith. We exhale.

Marty calls AAA, he paces up and down the block as Kamen and I speak optimistically about the situation. The locksmith will save us, we’ll get back to our hotel and we’ll be back on the road to Columbia in no time. Marty walks away from us as he speaks to the locksmith. When he returns to our spot by the Heisman statues, and with a deflated look on his face, he tells us AAA and a locksmith won’t help us unless we have the registered owner of the vehicle present. This was a massive problem because the registered owner (KOMU) of the vehicle was a thousand miles away. We start to panic.

Marty calls our news director Stacey Woelfel and breaks the news to him. We can’t find the car keys and AAA won’t help us. Marty begins to pace again and walks up the block to continue the conversation with Stacey privately. Kamen and I start to panic, I’m ready to cry. Marty walks back to us, this time with his hands on his head, his face white as the uniforms Missuri wore earlier that afternoon, sweat coming down from the sides of his face. “Stacey said we will have to book a hotel for the next two nights and one of us has to fly back to Missouri tomorrow with the satellite backpack so that it’s there in time for election coverage on Tuesday. Stacey will FedEx the keys on Monday.”

My eyes welled up with tears. Gainesville was no longer a beautiful place. The palm trees were masked by the dark late night sky, it was chilly with the sun nowhere to be found and now we were going to be trapped here forever. The three of us sat in silence, panicked silence, until I saw a cop turn on to a street just north of the stadium from where we were panicking. With no shoes on (my boot heels destroyed my legs by midnight), I ran a block toward the police to get his attention. I beg him to help us find these keys, that we will be stranded here for an extra few days if we can’t get into our car. He immediately starts helping, using his flashlight and walking around the outside of the stadium. A half an hour into the key search accompanied by cop, I look up 24 hour locksmiths in Gainesville. My plan was to sweet talk my way into convincing one of these locksmiths to make us a key, even though not a single one of us owned the car.

I call the first one listed, a groggy middle-aged sounding man answers. I introduced myself to this man who I had clearly woken up. I tell him the story, tell him how we’re stranded, how we’ll be trapped in Gainesville if we don’t get into this car and get a key made. He asked for the make and model of the car and asked if we were ready to pay some money. I quickly said yes and he assured me he’d be out front of the stadium in 20 minutes. I exhaled into the phone and told this complete stranger I loved him about about forty times before we hung up. I run to Marty, Kamen and the kind police officer and giddily let them know that AAA is full of crap and a locksmith is more than willing to help and will be there soon. We all hug in excitement and the police officer wishes us safe travels back to Missouri.

Infront of the Heisman statues, The three of us laugh and slap-happily discussed the disaster of a night we’ve endured. Bronze Tebow, Spurrier and Wuerffel laughed at us and this horrific night. As I’m recanting my conversation with the locksmith to the boys, a strawberry blonde, younger looking, slender man walks up to us. As he walks toward us, asking if we’re with KOMU, I spot the car keys, the big blue disc, the black zipper wallet, all in his hand. We all freak out and bombard this man with a million questions about where he found the keys and when. He claimed to have found them in a trash can over by the parking lot where the car was parked, the same place Marty had scanned over and over throughout the night. I was suspicious about this guy but didn’t care too much. The keys were found and we would be on our way back to Columbia in just a few hours. This incredible disaster of a day was finally over.

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Florida Quiets Franklin

James Franklin emerged from the locker room into the visiting team’s interview area with dazed eyes and a flat look on his face. Reporters peeled away from other players to listen to the quarterback talk about the conclusion of Missouri’s 14-7 loss to Florida. Franklin’s stat line read 21 completions out of 54 pass attempts for 236 yards, 4 interceptions and sacked 4 times.

Franklin is typically known for his poise. He doesn’t celebrate when he throws for a touchdown, he doesn’t show frustration after throwing an interception. His emotions remain constant. Regardless of how well or poorly he played in a game, Franklin is always ready and willing to speak to reporters with the same kind of poise. He’s typically talkative, almost to the point where he’ll go on tangeants about whatever the subject of discussion is. He speaks with more transparency than most of his teammates and is sure to make an almost overwhelming amount of eye contact with each and every single reporter.

But completing 44 percent of his pass attempts and throwing more interceptions than he had all season turns a talkative player taciturn, an outgoing man becomes shy, a poised quarterback gives his most depressing interview.

As reporters swarmed him outside of the locker room, Franklin looked off to a distance. Franklin made zero eye contact with anyone in the scrum as Gabe DeArmond asked the first question. Each of his responses seemed no longer than eight or nine words. His wide eyes drooped, his voice soft. He curtly answered questions regarding the fourth quarter opportunity he had to tie the game.

With Florida up 14-7, a minute and 49 seconds left to play, Franklin would go on to complete 7 of 9 pass attempts: a sideline pass to TJ Moe, pass up the middle to L’Damian Washington, a couple deep passes to Gahn McGaffie,and a pair of sideline passes to Dorial Green-Beckham. Franklin looked efficient and chains were moving quickly. Eleven seconds left on the clock, fourth down with six yards to go on the Florida 21 yard line, Franklin throws a post pass. Instead of being caught in the hands of  McGaffie, the ball finds its way into the possession of the Florida defense for the fourth time. Franklin’s head hung low from his neck as a couple of offensive linemen tried to console him. Although Franklin’s posture was perfect and his head held high during interviews, his tone was somber and his mood was at its lowest I’d seen all season.

Franklin almost winced as he spoke about the loss, telling reporters the defense was only holding itself responsible for giving up 14 points because they wanted to have his back. “I shouldn’t be turning the ball over four times.”

The short answers continued and the depression in his voice remained constant. Coach Gary Pinkel noted after the game that Franklin has been through a lot so far this season. He started the season fresh off of recovery from a shoulder injury, he injured the shoulder again, then injured his knee midway through the season. As a result of these injuries, Franklin was forced to sideline a couple of games (Arizona State, the second half against Vanderbilt, Alabama and the first half against Kentucky). Pinkel attributed the four interceptions against Florida to Franklin’s inability to practice consistently the last few weeks. The coach went on to say he was proud of Franklin for how he battled through this game.

Franklin didn’t spend too much time doing interviews before he slowly walked toward the team bus. Franklin once told me the reason why he wanted to be a quarterback was because he wants to always have more responsibility, more resting on his shoulders than anyone else on the team. He said he would never want any other player on offense to feel responsible for faults in a game, he would rather take all the blame. Regardless of the two touchdowns the defense gave up, I’m sure his dismal attitude tonight was because he’s allowing this loss to completely rest on his shoulders, holding himself completely responsible for losing a game that was within reach, perhaps one less interception away from a win.

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Missouri-Vanderbilt: An Old Man Matchup

On the nine hour drive to Hoover, Alabama for SEC Media Days this past July, I turned to my friend Maddy Glab and asked if there were any players in the SEC older than Elvis Fisher. After the NCAA granted him a 6th year for sitting out all of last season because of a knee injury, The Missouri offensive lineman coined his own twitter hastag: #6yearproblems. The hashtag grew wildly popular during the spring and by fall camp his teammates were referring to him as “grandpa.”

Anyway, back to being en route to Hoover. While Maddy drove, I went through rosters on each SEC’s team website. I looked at each player listed as a senior or a redshirt senior. I checked the year they graduated high school or the year each player was born, which ever was written in the bio. I had gone through the entire SEC West and most of the East. I checked Maddy’s organized list of players from the East scheduled to attend Media Days. Finally, after looking at Vanderbilt quarterback Jordan Rodgers’ player bio and Wikipedia page, it became clear that Fisher was not the oldest player in the SEC. Rodgers would turn 24 years old the month after SEC Media Days. Fisher doesn’t turn 24 until October 25th. Both Rodgers and Fisher were scheduled to speak on the first day of SEC Media Days, so on the drive there, I began tweeting about my newfound information.

That next morning, Rodgers sat in front of TV Cameras in one of the many media rooms  and admitted he didn’t know too much about Missouri, but that he’d recently learned that he and Fisher were the oldest players in the SEC. Later that afternoon during Missouri’s alloted time, Fisher said he’d spoken to the quarterback on twitter, Jordan asked him if he was bringing his walker or his cane to Media Days. After three failed attempts in between sessions, the two never got to meet at Media Days.

Although both are a couple of the oldest players in the conference, one has aged a little bit more than the other. Jordan Rodgers has a head full of thick hair while Fisher jokes about his balding issue. Rodgers looks like he’s 24, Fisher is the first to point out that he looks like he’s 42. Fisher makes more of an event about this year being his 6th year. As a joke, he made a demand video back in August in the parking lot of Memorial Stadium, rattling off a list of expectations that needed to be met before fall camp.

Fisher and Rodgers play each other tonight at Memorial Stadium in Columbia. They will finally get to meet each other in person for the first time.

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Sheldon Richardson Speaks

I wrote a few weeks ago about how much of a breather Sheldon is compared to his teammates in the interview department. He’s a player who, for lack of a better phrase, keeps it real. He’s incredibly blunt and opinionated. I was actually really surprised that he and a handful of his teammates were willing to back track with me to talk about the Georgia game and the “Old man football” comment. Missouri corner, EJ Gaines, even told me that he’d completely forgotten about it until I brought it up.

Sheldon and his teammates said that his personality is consistent from the locker room, the field, at home, hanging out with friends and at media day Mondays. Players used words like “wild” “crazy” “obnoxious” “excited”  “outspoken” to describe Sheldon’s personality. The players that I talked to all agreed that despite his outlandish personality and some of his outspoken comments in the past, Sheldon has been an excellent leader for the entire team.

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An Interesting Direct Message

After the story on Missouri freshman wide receiver, Dorial Green-Beckham’s, suspension took hold of the Missouri and SEC twitter-verses this afternoon, I received  this direct message (above) on twitter from someone in the Mizzou football program. I sent out eight different tweets earlier regarding the information I knew about DGB’s arrest Wednesday night- the marijuana possession, who he was with, and where the arrest took place. I cropped out the person’s name in the above photo because I don’t mean to embarrass anyone. I didn’t really think I’d ever have to do something like this but I just want to clear up whatever confusion there might be as to where my “loyalties” stand.

I replied to the DM saying -point blank- it’s my job. It’s my job to give people information about the Missouri football team. That’s why I was at every single open practice during fall training camp, that’s why I go to every media day, games, etc. As a reporter, it’s my job to report on the team’s accomplishments and milestones as well as its faults and failures. I did indeed graduate from the University of Missouri just this past May, but that doesn’t mean I’m a fan of the Mizzou football team. I wouldn’t be qualified to do this job if I was. At the same time, as a reporter, I’m also not out to get anyone nor do I ever have the intention of putting a player or a coach in a bad light. I simply relay information to viewers and readers and give them a better understanding of what’s happening in the Missouri football program in the best way that I can. I told this person that he nor anyone in the program should take reports personally, that he has a job to do and so do I.

If anyone is still confused, he or she can email me at Zavalaa856@gmail.com

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