Rey Maualuga #58 LB
Height: 6-2 Weight: 265 Age: 26
Born: 1/20/1987 Fort Sill , OK
Experience: 5th season
High School: St. Bonaventure HS [Ventura, CA]; Eureka HS [CA]
Selected By: Cincinnati Bengals
Pick (Overall): 6 (38)
The three-year starter was called by the coaching staff the "most menacing" linebacker of the Pete Carroll era. By the time he finished playing for USC, Maualuga was the most decorated linebacker to wear a Trojans uniform since Junior Seau roamed the fields for Southern California in the late 1980s. In each of his three seasons as a starter, Maualuga garnered All-American and All-Pac 10 Conference recognition.
During his freshman season as a reserve, the Trojans ranked 31st in the nation in rush defense (130.54 ypg), 48th in total defense (360.92 ypg) and 35th in scoring defense (22.85 ppg). In Maualuga's first year as a starter, Southern California improved to ninth in the nation vs. the run (91.08 ypg), 20th in total defense (295.85 ypg) and 11th in scoring defense (15.15 ppg).
As a junior, USC continued to move up the national charts, finishing fourth vs. the run (84.15 ypg), second in total defense (273.15 ypg) and second in scoring defense (16.0 ppg) in 2007. In his final season, the Trojans allowed just 87.38 yards per game on the ground (fifth in the NCAA), ranking second in the country in total defense (221.77 ypg) while leading the major colleges in scoring defense (9.0 ppg).
"I want to become the player that the offense game-plans around, that the offense fears coming into the game," Maualuga recently stated. The inspiration he draws from his late father, Talatonu, who died just before the 2006 Rose Bowl BCS championship game: "It doesn't hit me as much now as it did, but I use it as inspiration. He's out there in my heart playing with me. Even though he's not here, he's with me spiritually. I've matured a lot lately. That childish player, that person that I was, is long gone. I feel like I've developed a sense of leadership on the team. I've learned the do's and don'ts, and I've realized what's important."
In an article by Steve Dilbeck of the Los Angeles Daily News, he wrote: "Have you seen the play of USC linebacker Rey Maualuga? If you watched the Trojans play, could your eyes possibly avoid him? Does this look like Superman in cardinal and gold or what? He flies to the ball and then hits like a locomotive. Isn't this obviously USC's next superstar? He has given every indication of becoming the ideal middle linebacker. He has the natural size. He has incredible burst. He is powerful and aggressive and uncommonly fast. More than all that, he is also amazingly athletic. He can be a sledgehammer or a ballerina. Dazzle with power or agility. Play with fury and control."
Hall of Fame coach and ESPN's Lou Holtz chimed in, "He's the next great Trojans linebacker, very physical, always lining up big hits. He reminds me of (ex-Ohio State All-American) A.J. Hawk. His athletic ability is similar to Hawk's, but the infectiousness of his free spirit makes him even more valuable to his team."
Maualuga earned Parade, Super Prep, Prep Football Report, Scout.com and EA Sports All-American honors at Eureka High School as a senior in 2004. He was named USA Today All-USA first- team, Super Prep Elite 50, Prep Star Top 100 Dream Team, Student Sports Top 100, Rivals 100, Super Prep All-Farwest, Prep Star All-West, Long Beach Press-Telegram Best in the West, Tacoma News Tribune Western 100, Orange County Register Fab 15 first team and Cal-Hi Sports All-State first team honors that season.
In 2004, Maualuga recorded 96 tackles, including 37 stops for loss, four interceptions, including two that he returned for touchdowns, a pair of fumble recoveries and had one kickoff return for a touchdown. As a junior in 2003, he was a Student Sports Junior All-American and Cal-Hi Sports All-State Underclass first-team pick while posting 146 tackles, 43 for loss, 11 sacks and one interception. Eureka went 20-2-1 during his junior and senior seasons. He spent his 2001 freshman year at St. Bonaventure High in Ventura (Calif.).
Maualuga made an immediate impact as a true freshman. Even though he played behind Oscar Lua at middle linebacker, he was named Freshman All-American first-team by the Football Writers Association and Scout.com. He received the team's John McKay Award, given to the player that shows the most competitive spirit. He finished with 37 tackles (26 solos), a sack, 4.5 stops for losses and an interception.
Maualuga earned All-American honorable mention and All-Pac 10 Conference first-team honors in 2006. He started 10 of the 13 games he played in at middle linebacker, going on to register 78 tackles (45 solos), ranking second on the team. He had two sacks among his five stops for loss, as he also deflected three passes and picked off another.
As a junior, Maualuga received All-American third-team and All-Pac 10 Conference first-team accolades. He started all but the Notre Dame game, as he was nursing a hip pointer before that contest, leading the team with a career-high 79 tackles (41 solos). He placed third on the squad with six sacks and 10.5 stops behind the line of scrimmage. He also knocked down three passes while intercepting another.
Maualuga was a unanimous first-team All-American and All-Pac 10 Conference choice in 2008. He was a finalist for the Lombardi Award, Bronko Nagurski Award and the Butkus Award, in addition to being named the league's Defensive Player of the Year. He matched his career-high with 79 tackles (51 solos), as he returned one of his two interceptions for a touchdown and deflected four other throws in 12 games. He sat out the Oregon clash after he sprained his knee in the Oregon State game.