- Jane McManus, Reporter & Columnist, espnW.com
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FLORHAM PARK, N.J. -- Aaron Maybin had to grow into the nickname "Mayhem," because it was given to him in a slip of the tongue. His freshman year, Penn State coach Joe Paterno simply got his name wrong. Maybin, Mayhem -- tomato, tomahto.
Maybin's teammates, however, never let him forget. In college, the linebacker grew into the name and wore it like a badge, putting the name on his license plate. But when he was drafted by Buffalo in 2009, it got a lot harder to live up to the nickname. Some Bills fans would have found the label "Bust" more accurate after Mayhem failed to get a single sack in two years.
"It was a very frustrating time," Maybin said.
Now getting a second chance with the New York Jets, and with three sacks in the past four games, Maybin can use his nickname again without irony. He credits a coach that has believed in him for years.
"Great production," Jets coach Rex Ryan said. "We need to get him on the field more. There have been 40-some snaps he's been out there and he's had three sacks and three caused fumbles [and] made a lot of tackles.
"The Mayhem thing, I love that deal because it fits him. You guys talk to him, you know what I'm talking about. He's beautiful."
Since he ended his sackless streak, Maybin has been more extroverted, talked louder in the locker room. He has entertained reporters like the green carpet is his living room, and discussed why he thinks he's able to be a different player with the Jets than he was with the Bills.
"I can't sit here and say that I'm the exact same person that I was when I first came into the league," said Maybin, who turned 21 in the weeks leading up to the 2009 draft. "There's been so much that I've learned and so much that I think life kind of teaches you. I've been through a lot since I've been in the league, but all those things have contributed to me being where I'm at right now, so I can't say that I have any regrets."
That said, he never felt like he was utilized well in Buffalo, which is the first team the Jets will face after their bye.
"There's a certain confidence that the coaching staff here has in me to go out and make plays, that allows them to put me out there in situations that's going to allow me to do so," Maybin said. "For whatever reason that confidence wasn't there in Buffalo.
"My talent hasn't changed but that whole confidence piece, that's the biggest thing. When your coach believes you're going to go out there and get it done, he puts you in situations where he can rely on you to do what you're put in the defense to do."
Ryan signed Maybin during training camp, when fellow draft bust Vernon Gholston was punching the clock in a Bears uniform. Maybin was cut, but Jets defensive coordinator Mike Pettine said that since he re-signed, Maybin has started to play like a Jet.
"I tell people all the time, you look at me playing high school or Pop Warner football and you look at me playing today, you're basically seeing the same thing," Maybin said. "It's always been my mentality that however good the offensive player is, he doesn't want to get to the end zone as badly as I want to get to him. As long as I play the game like that, there's always going to be something there for me."
Maybin was familiar to Ryan since he grew up playing near Baltimore while Ryan was coaching in the area. The linebacker said that after his experience with the Bills he wanted to play for coaches who want him to succeed.
"I'm not going to go someplace where basically I'm putting myself back into the same situation I was before," Maybin said. "Wherever I'm going to go, it has to be some place that has a certain need of my skill set and someplace that was going to have the confidence in me to give me the opportunity to at least go and prove that I'm not who they think I am. At least put me on the field and let me prove that, and that's what Coach Ryan did when I got here."
When he gets back after the bye, Maybin will continue to try to prove Ryan right.
8hEric D. Williams