(Note: this is the latest in a series looking at former Big East players and where they are now. To suggest a player for a future story, e-mail me at this link.)
Ben Mauk proved in the summer of 2008 that he doesn't give up on a dream easily.
The former Cincinnati quarterback doggedly pursued an extra year of eligibility with the Bearcats, only to be denied repeatedly by the NCAA. It's with that same determination that he's holding out hope of latching on with an NFL team.
"I'm waiting for a call," he said. "Some team that needs an extra arm, a practice-squad guy. I'm just looking for somebody to give me a chance somewhere."
Mauk spent this spring playing for the Cincinnati Commandos of the upstart Continental Indoor Football League. He led the league in virtually every offensive category and guided the team to the championship. Playing arena football didn't seem all that different from his college experience.
"It's really fast paced, but we were a really fast-paced team with Coach [Brian] Kelly," he said. "We had a lot of players from Cincinnati on the team, so we all adjusted pretty easily."
Mauk played one season for the Bearcats after transferring from Wake Forest. He threw for 3,121 yards and 31 touchdowns in 2007, Kelly's first year. Mauk then entered a long, drawn-out appeal process with the NCAA for a sixth year of eligibility, claiming he had an unreported injury at Wake Forest. The case went through many twists and turns and left some uncertainty hanging over the program much of that summer.
"The NCAA is just a big bureaucracy," Mauk says. "They're like big brother; they oversee everything but don't have to answer to anybody. It was pretty frustrating. I still don't know why I didn't get a sixth year, but the NCAA has a lot of money that they make off college athletes, so it's not worth going to battle with them for too long."
Mauk felt tinges of regret as he watched that year's Cincinnati team go to the Orange Bowl, but he was also happy for his former teammates. He said the year off helped his oft-injured body heal, and that he felt like new while playing arena ball.
Now he faces the next chapter in his life. He was set to decide this week on two job offers from Ohio high schools to be a teacher and assistant football coach. That has been one of his long-held goals.
"My dad was a high school coach, so I grew up in that environment just seeing how he impacted kids' lives," Mauk said. "I always wanted to have that role."
He is also advising his younger brother, Maty, in his recruitment. Maty is a highly regarded quarterback prospect in the class of 2012 whose many suitors include, interestingly enough, both Cincinnati and Kelly's Notre Dame Fighting Irish.
Mauk hopes his accomplishments with the arena team give him some film to show prospective employers. If the NFL doesn't come calling, he'll try to make it in the Arena Football League. Until then, he'll teach and coach and keep holding onto his dream.
"If a team were to call me, I'd be ready to go and give it my best shot," he said.