Small School, Big Pass Rush

The New York Jets are betting that Lorenzo Mauldin and Nathan Shepherd will provide a big pass rush in 2018. Both players have more than pressure in common, as Mauldin and Shepherd are also former small school star athletes.

Small School Players Bringing a Big Pass Rush for New York Jets

It’s not the typical route most players take to get to the NFL, but Mike Maccagnan loves taking chances. He selected linebacker Lorenzo Mauldin in the third-round of the 2015 NFL draft out of the University of Louisville. Defensive tackle Nathan Shepherd came from an even less regarded college football program at Fort Hays State. Now the New York Jets are relying on Mauldin and Shepard to make opposing quarterback’s lives miserable.

Shepard’s story is one we all can learn from. At first, Shepherd couldn’t afford to go to college. He worked two jobs until he could make his dream of playing college football a reality. He would have to remind himself every morning of his goal. As adults, we often forget the long-term goal for short-term benefits. This is even tougher when you’re a teenager, but Shepherd did it.  Mauldin bounced between 15 foster homes as a kid. His father was locked up in prison. His mother sold drugs to put food on the table. Eventually, she would end up in prison too. These exceptional stories of human perseverance can help to motivate teammates during tough times. When you play for the New York Jets, tough times are inevitable.

Its no secret the New York Jets haven’t had much of a pass rush lately. While investing high draft picks and big free agent dollars on the secondary, the Jets pass rush hasn’t had a pro-bowler since John Abraham. You’d have to go back to the 1980’s to find a truly disruptive force in Mark Gastineau.

It’s not the “blue chippers” that NFL General Managers build their reputations on, though Maccagnan did find his share during his time with Houston Texans, drafting J.J. Watt and DeAndre Hopkins, both perennial all-pros. Its the late round picks that make you famous. While serving as the Houston Texans Director of College Scouting, Maccagnan found late round gems in OL David Quessenberry out of San Jose State, kicker Randy Bullock in round-six, and wide receiver Trindon Holliday. Not exactly household names, but the kind of role players necessary for championships.

Now Maccagan is betting that his latest small school standouts Mauldin and Shepherd can bring a big-time pass rush. Somebody is going to have to make Tom Brady remember he’s 40.

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