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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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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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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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Missouri QB Situation vs. Arizona State: What I Know

After rumors surfaced about Corbin Berkstresser practicing with first team offense, and the point spread for the Missouri vs. Arizona State game changed all of a sudden on Friday in Las Vegas, I asked a source close to the Mizzou football program if there was any truth to the rumors.

In a text message received at 3:30pm Friday, source told me that Berkstresser starting over James Franklin was “what it looks like for now, Franklin’s injury isn’t too serious.” When asked if it was Franklin’s shoulder that was the reason for him not starting, source responded via text and said Franklin’s shoulder was “hurting and that it was irritated a little in last week’s game [against Georgia]” and that Mizzou would see how Franklin felt on Saturday to determine his overall status.

At 6:00pm, after asking the chances of Franklin playing at all tomorrow, source (again, through text) responded and said that Franklin’s status was “a game time decision but it doesn’t look promising.”

This morning at around 11am I asked the same source if there was any update. Source said Franklin’s status was still a game time decision.

Missouri and Arizona State kick off at 6pm central time at Faurot Field.

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