his sophomore year in a dogfight for the starting job with senior Oscar Lua.
The upperclassman was by far the smarter, more fundamentally sound player. In
the end, however, Carroll couldn't resist Maualuga's athleticism and passion,
the fear he struck in the hearts of opponents. The sophomore got the nod.
Maualuga has gained a stronger grasp of the small details that had previously
held so little interest for a warrior like himself. "He's been able to
combine all that speed, all that power, with an understanding of the mental
side of the game," says Norton. "He's no longer a young guy learning
how to play the game. Backs, linemen—no one can take him on. He's too much.
everyone that his pupil's two-tackle performance in the opener against Virginia
was not indicative of those supernatural abilities.
says Spielman, letting his scarlet-and-gray briefs show. "What's that? I
mean, you can get two tackles falling down on every snap. You're an
All-American, you have to be making plays!"
As it happens,
Maualuga was playing with a broken finger, suffered in the week before the
game; to reduce the pain he took two Vicodin before kickoff, which is why,
Maualuga suspects, he felt dizzy and vomited seven times during the game. Later
he collapsed at the airport and required intravenous fluids. He was at practice
three days later.
game will more likely turn on Wells's foot than Maualuga's stomach. But keep
your eye on the middle of the field. Who will make more plays? Who will win the
Butkus? Whose name will be called first at the NFL draft next April?
And whose in-box
will be filling up with congratulatory texts come Saturday night, and whose
with messages of commiseration?