As the NFL season approaches, college football fans go through the cathartic process of well-wishing players from their favorite universities head off to the league. If you're anything like me, you keep tabs on those players as they grow and change, and hopefully sprout new successes on Sunday.
This past spring, while watching the NFL draft, my heart sank as Rey Maualuga dropped further and further down the draft board. While I was ecstatic for former walk-on and USC legacy LB Clay Matthews III, something just didn't feel right about Clay going before the Trojans resident bone-crusher for the last four years.
Everyone in the nation has watched at least a handful of Saturday night Sportscenter highlight reels of Rey peeling the paint off some unsuspecting quarterback or upstart running back. So, why did this aggressive and passionate LB fall out of the first round?
While I still don't find any solace in the myriad of explanations I've read, Rey falling to the Cincinnati Bengals is about as great a silver-lining to a sad cloud as possible.
Rey will have a shot to compete for playing-time right off the bat. And just as was the case when he arrived in downtown Los Angeles a few years back, his old pal Keith Rivers (who was anointed with the #55 jersey during his time at USC) will be there to pull him along and show him the ropes.
Rivers was another of the Trojans stellar linebacking core to get drafted. And as luck would have it, he ended up in Cincinnati rejoining Maualuga.
Rivers and Maualuga have a wealth of experience playing together. While other new linebackers will take games or seasons to build a rapport with teammates, Maualuga's and Rivers' history will be a strong foundation for the Bengals' young LB corps.
It's going to be fun to watch them lay the hat this year. And now USC fans don't have to change the channel when the Bengals' D comes on the field. We’ve all tuned in to watch Carson Palmer the last few years anyway.