6'2" 255 pound Rey Maualuga was drafted by the Bengals with their sixth pick in the second round. Rey came into the NFL along side three other very talented linebackers from USC named Brian Cushing, Clay Matthews, and Kaluka Maiava.
Brian and Clay were both selected in the first round, while Kaluka was picked fourth in the fourth round. Kaluka was the 2009 Rose Bowl MVP.
Clay and Brian earned the honor of being selected to the Pro Bowl and Cushing took home the NFL's Defensive Rookie of the Year award. Maualuga left USC as a senior in 2008 among the most talented linebacking group in college football.
These four linebackers were invited to the 2009 NFL Scouting Combine, and their presence there was particularly impressive considering that top Division 1 schools might only send one to three senior players annually.
Even before joining the NFL, Rey was compared by scouts to Samoan greats Junior Seau and Troy Polamalu because of his "sideline-to-sideline" aggressive style of play.
Besides hitting hard, Rey and Troy really got that cool warrior-style hair going for them as well.
2009 Season Highlights:
Rey suffered a left ankle fracture in Week 16 vs. Kansas City and was placed on IR for the remainder of the season.
He finished with 80 tackles which were fifth on the team, led his defense with three forced fumbles, with two on defense and one on special teams.He had one sack and two passes defended, and made three tackles on special teams.
Forced a key fumble in the third quarter vs. Green Bay which led to a 62-yard winning drive that would seal the game.
He tied the team lead in tackles twice vs. Baltimore (10 TOT) in Week 5 and Oakland (7 TOT) in Week 11, while tying for second vs. Cleveland in Week 12 with six tackles.
He was a key contributor to only allowing the Steelers 226 total yards with seven tackles in Week 10, and in Week 12 helped his defense only allow the Browns 169 total yards, which was the fewest allowed by the Bengals since 1983.
In Week 14 he set his season high 11 tackles vs. Minnesota, and recorded four tackles within just eight snaps vs. Kansas City before suffering his season ending injury.
The 2009 Cincinnati Bengals defense finished fourth overall, sixth in passing, seventh in rushing, sixth in scoring, and 16th in sacks; a very noticeable improvement from 2008 after finishing 12th, 15th, 21st, 19th, and 30th in those categories.
The acquisition of RE Antwan Odom in 2008 continues to prove worthy as he generated 26 tackles, which was cut short to 23 in 2009 due to injury but certainly turned heads through his first five games as he was able to sack Aaron Rodgers five times in Week 2, setting a Bengals single game record. And his two sacks the week before allowed him to become the first player to have seven sacks after the season's first two games.
Odom finished his season early with eight sacks in Week 6, but only DT Jonathan Fanene was able to come close to that total by finishing the season with six sacks of his own. With LE Robert Geathers totaling 3.5 sacks and always reliable veteran and tackle leader LB Dhani Jones finishing with four sacks, the Bengals pass rush should only continue to improve.
Rey is surrounded by a strong core of linebackers in fellow USC teamate and former 2008 first-rounder Keith Rivers and seasoned veteran Jones. His solid secondary backfield consists of corners Johnathan Joseph and Leon Hall along with FS Chris Crocker.
Drafted Defensive Players:
In the second, third, and fourth rounds of the 2010 Draft the Bengals selected DE Carlos Dunlap, CB Brandon Ghee, DT Geno Atkins, and LB Roddirck Muckleroy.
Notable Quote from Rey Maualuga on hitting:
“It’s hitting a guy and having him get up slowly, looking at who hit him. For a guy you hit and he gets right back up, that’s not a hit. That’s just a regular arm tackle. When a guy gets up slowly, looks at you and says, ‘I don’t want to get hit like that again,’ that’s a hit.”