Dental School May Someday Be in Matt Mauck's Future, But Right Now, His Focus Is Football
ENGLEWOOD, Colo. -- It wasn't enough for Matt Mauck to side-step pass rushers during a spectacular senior year at LSU, one that saw him complete 64.0 percent of his passes, throw for a school-record 28 touchdowns and lead the Southeastern Conference in pass efficiency.
He had to elude questions about his future -- and whether he would continue to play football on either the college or pro levels, or shun the sport completely.
After the Broncos selected Mauck with the first of their three seventh-round picks last month, the first media queries he needed to answer and clarify were not related to his 18-2 record as a college starter, to his three years as a minor-league catcher in the Chicago Cubs organization, or the Tigers' first national championship since 1958.
Rather, they revolved around items written early in the 2003 season regarding a story that Mauck was going to bypass both his final year of eligibility in 2004 and a shot at an NFL career to attend dental school. Only since joining the Broncos has Mauck finally been able to publicly set the record straight.
"A lot of times you guys (the media) do a good job, but there are some times when maybe things get stretched a little bit too far," Mauck said. "It just happened that he asked me what I eventually wanted to do after football. I said, 'I'd love to pursue dental school, if that were to be a possibility.' The next day, the headline in the paper is, 'Mauck thinking about forgoing senior season for dental school.' I didn't say anything like that."
But while pursuing a D.D.S. was not his first plan, it was an option. He successfully applied to dental school during his final year at LSU. While he wanted to completely debunk the story, he knew that would be unwise.
"You can't come out and say, 'I don't want to go to dental school,' because you don't want dental schools to hear that and say, 'Well, this guy's not really serious about it.' It was kind of a tough situation," Mauck said. "I tried to deflect it all year long. But it's something that kept coming up.
"I kept on telling people, 'I want to continue playing football.' But the situation I was in, I didn't want to sit here and say, 'I want to play in the NFL,' because I didn't really know. It's not my decision if I get an opportunity to or not."
But it doesn't represent his first opportunity in professional sports. After a sterling multi-sport high-school career in Jasper, Ind., the Cubs made him a sixth-round pick in 1997, giving him the option of bypassing a football scholarship to Michigan State University.
In three years behind the plate, he never advanced beyond the Class A level. By the time he decided to return to football, the coach who recruited him to Michigan State, Nick Saban, had moved on to LSU -- where he had a spot waiting for Mauck.
Maybe Mauck would have made it to the NFL had he gone straight to MSU. But the path didn't matter to Mauck as much as the destination, and although he enters the league at the relatively advanced age of 25, he believes his years on the professional diamond will serve him well as he tries to make the Broncos.
"I wouldn't have done anything differently," Mauck said. "I think baseball helped me out with football as far as a maturity standpoint and really knowing what I want to do. But then I think if I would have gone to Michigan State right away and played football, hopefully I would have been able to have the same kind of career."
For the first time, Mauck can focus strictly on football. In high school, there were other sports. In college, there was academics -- the pursuit of which allowed him to earn second-team Academic All-America recognition in 2003.
"It's fun," Mauck said. "In college, you have so many distractions, and so many other things going on. It's nice to just concentrate on nothing but football."
That's necessary in order to absorb not only the Broncos' playbook, but to adjust to how on-field situations differ from when they're on paper as Xs and Os.
"There's a lot of things you have to know, especially at the quarterback position," Mauck said. "It's been a fun challenge. I think it's something that you put a lot of work into. I think I've got a fairly decent grasp on things I'm supposed to do. But a playbook is only so much. You go out on the field and things change when you've got defenders."
But this is what he wanted -- not just playing in the NFL, but playing for the Broncos.
"I had talked to Coach (Gary) Kubiak at the combine and they showed some interest," Mauck said. "If you had asked me before the draft, this definitely would have been among the top two places of where I wanted to be."