View photos of former Louisville linebacker Lorenzo Mauldin.
INDIANAPOLIS —** Constant tumult has defined Lorenzo Mauldin's life.
His collegiate recruiting should have been cut and dry, ending when he committed to South Carolina, who had offered him a scholarship. But the Gamecocks ultimately didn't have a scholarship to give after they over-signed.
Louisville and former head coach Charlie Strong came calling, though, and stepped in to offer him a scholarship, which Mauldin accepted. But what should have been a step to stability and firm ground just didn't materialize for the future NFL prospect who so desperately needed it.
He and his Cardinals defensive line coach Clint Hurtt butted heads early on in his first year, throwing the linebacker's life and collegiate career into choppy waters.
"He had a tough time with hard coaching," Hurtt said in an interview with ESPN. "He never had a male figure in his life really get on him about the little things he was doing. He had a tough time trusting men. It was very difficult for him."
Mauldin had been in foster homes ever since he was a toddler. Often in a state of upheaval and movement, one of the few constants was verbal abuse, and Mauldin drew distrustful.
"I was raised by all women when it came to being in foster homes," Mauldin said. "So just having the fact of going to a new school or going to a new state, and you've got a bunch of men yelling at you, and you don't really know what's going on, and, you know, trust was a big issue for me when I first came into college."
Hurtt eventually broke through Mauldin's defensive shell to the point of showing up on his Senior Night when Mauldin didn't have anyone there to accompany him. Mauldin now says the current Bears assistant coach "couldn't be more closer than blood."
Mauldin's upbringing gives him a unique perspective as he works toward joining a workplace that needs it.
Having been raised by all women, Mauldin is a self-described feminist, a word that's often negatively misconstrued or misunderstood because of ill-intentioned stereotypes.
"The fact that our women are being disrespected nowadays and they're being — they're not getting enough credit," he said. "So I just want to be able to show that there are men out there that respect women as much they respect themselves, and given the fact that women are our society today, [I] just [want to] respect and show that it's not all about the men. Women can provide what men can provide as well."
Moving from one foster home to another, Mauldin finally found some stability in high school and found a family of women who had love and a home to give him.
"I can say being raised by women, that just made me have more respect for women," he said. "For someone to take somebody in such as myself, a child that's not theirs, and be able to bring someone else's child into their home and care for them, love for them — I can say I've become a feminist."
Without a father figure he could trust until Hurtt and Strong, Mauldin was reticent and withdrawn when it came to men but has come to regain that trust and respect.
"I really respect women to the utmost, and when it comes to men in general, I don't have a thing against them," he said. "I've never had a father figure in my life when it came to my actual father. I've had these guys come in like Coach Strong, Coach Hurtt, [Louisville defensive coodinator] Coach [Todd] Grantham, to mentor me and be able to see me down the right road. I've actually had that chance to again respect and trust men as well in general because, again, they have the best interest for me. So women have the [...] most respect from me."
At a time when domestic violence, sexual violence and violence against women in general have become some of the most prominent issues in America and become focal points for the NFL, Mauldin says he can see himself stepping into a leading role speaking out against these problems.
"I most definitely think I can because growing up, you see so much going on in all these documentaries about the players doing this wrong, they've done this with women, they've done this with their money, they've put themselves in a bad situation with women," he said. "I feel like just one word that will pretty much reach out to someone else that has enough power to do something about it. It's enough, so you know, if I can say something about it and be able to show that athletes need to respect women."
At a time during his week at the NFL Combine where every player is trying prove why they stand out from the rest, Lorenzo Mauldin has shown just that in one of the best ways he could.
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