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Posted at 11:24 AM ET, 12/02/2011

Pride in a protege

In this weekend’s game, the New York Jets will have a young man coming in to rush the passer on passing downs. His story is so phenomenal that it wouldn’t be a stretch to see it become a best-seller or a movie. I don’t have enough time to write it all, but I have had the honor of knowing Aaron Maybin for a long time and can share a few of my experiences with him.

I have watched him grow from a confident, scrawny little guy into a full grown man. He comes from an amazing family--a strong father and mother who I admire very much.

When I met Aaron, he was in the 7th grade. We talked a bit at a Ray Lewis charity event and then we lost contact. What I didn’t know is that his dad attended Penn State, and as fate would have it, Aaron developed into a Division I football player and chose PSU.

I didn’t even know he had done that, but I vividly remember the first time I saw him on the sideline in State College. I remember saying to myself, ‘Wow that’s how a football player is supposed to look.’ Then I looked at myself and thought: ‘I need to get back into the weight room.’

As I was leaving the game, I recognized Mr. Maybin and asked him what was he doing at the game. He told me he had attended PSU and that his son played for the team--that little kid I had met all those years ago. Then Aaron came walking up and he was the freak of nature I had gushed over earlier!

Then I remembered that long ago he had told me he was coming for my job. If I were still playing, it certainly would have been a possibility.

At any rate, we became very close and continued to talk during his time at school. I even helped train him for his pro day.

He was drafted high by the Bills, the 11th overall pick. My college jersey number--how fitting. But things didn’t work out there, for whatever reason. His lack of size was more a focus than his ability.

I must admit I thought that the signs were bad. He’d be labeled a bust and move from team to team.

But as he has in life, Aaron found a way to beat the odds. He landed on a New York Jets team that has rejuvenated his young career. He has more sacks than any Bills player and has emerged as a premier pass rusher.

I am truly proud of him. He has shown a resilience that few have. I am proud to call him my brother as well as my friend. I will be rooting for my team on Sunday of course, but I definitely will be rooting for number 51 on the Jets as well.

By  |  11:24 AM ET, 12/02/2011

 
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