In addition to my regular posts, I will also be sharing some of the feature stories I write for FSN. Some of these are from last season.
At 6'3" and 250 pounds, Rey Maualuga has been a star-in-waiting since arriving on campus in 2005. With the speed of a running back and the strength of an offensive lineman, number-58 could one day be revered as much as legendary former USC number 55's Junior Seau and Willie McGinnest.
"He's a great player," said USC Head Coach Pete Carroll. "He'll be big time. He's so athletically gifted. He'll play on Sundays for a long time."
But before we can look to Maualuga's future, we must first look at his past. Growing up in Eureka, Calif.--about 270 miles north of San Francisco--kids had to be tough both on and off the field. A fact Maualuga had no choice but to accept.
And when he came to USC, he struggled with some of the cultural differences between Eureka and Los Angeles, as well as being away from his tight-knit family.
In November 2005, Maualuga was booked on suspicion of misdemeanor battery after punching a student at a Halloween party. Two months later, his father passed away after a long bout with cancer.
"I know my dad's here in my heart. I know he's there with me, said Maualuga. "I'm going to treat each day as if he's here, and I'm blessed to have people that care and stuck with me even though my dad is not here."
"It rocked his world when his father passed away, said Carroll. "It had been happening for a long time before he passed, and it did affect Rey a great deal. All of that and being a freshman at USC and everything, it was very difficult. And he got himself into a situation and made a terrible mistake, and then he had to deal with his dad passing soon after that too. So it had a big effect on him.
"He has grown. "It is a wonderful process to watch kids grow up and take care of their responsibilities and Rey has done that."
And he's done even more on the field. After earning freshman All-American honors in 2005, he quickly became the most ferocious tackler on the premier unit of the Trojans defense--earning a starting job just two games into his sophomore season.
"My goal is to be a leader and go out there and take charge and show everybody what I can do is something special," said Maualuga.