Where are they now? Matt Mauck

John F. Rhodes/Dallas Morning News
Matt Mauck helped lead LSU to the 2003 BCS national championship and was picked by the Denver Broncos in the 2004 NFL draft before injuries curtailed his football career. Now, he's a dentist in Denver.

 

By BRENDAN PERKINS
Herald Sports Editor

Matt Mauck doesn’t want to shrivel into a complete afterthought. If it’s up to him, though, he’s perfectly OK with a life of docile anonymity.

So these periodic occurrences are the perfect middle ground.

Mauck

Once or twice a week, Mauck retrieves his mail and cracks open something with an autograph request attached. Clothes. Hats. Other memorabilia. The Louisiana State University-crazed autograph seekers have found him, better than 1,200 miles away. Scant other strangers in Denver may recall the name and fewer remember the face, nearly 10 years after Mauck quarterbacked LSU to the Sugar Bowl title and Bowl Championship Series national title. Recently, when Mauck ran his credit card at a golf course, the man behind the counter glanced at the name on the card and asked if Mauck was any relation to that guy who played quarterback at LSU a ways back.

“It happens just enough times that I’m fine with,” said Mauck, 34. “It’s kind of nice that people remember you sometimes. But it’s also kind of nice to go unnoticed sometimes, too.”

Mauck essentially has cycled from relative obscurity and back since graduating from Jasper High School in 1997, even if he did harbor grander plans in the interim.

Indiana’s Mr. Baseball winner in 1997, Mauck first played two years in the Chicago Cubs organization before backtracking to college. Mauck followed Nick Saban, who coached at Michigan State when Mauck originally signed to play football for the Spartans before diverting to the baseball path.

Mauck didn’t glimmer in the Sugar Bowl, tossing two picks and no touchdown passes. But LSU still clipped Oklahoma 21-14, and the 2003 season in which Mauck threw for better than 2,800 yards and completed 64 percent of his attempts skyrocketed the stock of a guy who was on no one’s top 25 or 50 or 100 quarterbacks list when he emerged from Jasper’s running-game-centralized program.

From there, his fortune flipped.

“I always look at it as playing with house money, type of thing, to where I kind of exceeded expectations already,” he said of his post-college playing career. “As much as I would have liked to have played longer, I never looked at it as, ”˜Oh, I’m disappointed with myself.’”

The Denver Broncos drafted Mauck in 2004 but cut him a year later. Mauck latched on with the Tennessee Titans for two seasons and started a game, but a herniated disc in his back sparked a domino effect of pain as he subsequently lost function in his right calf for more than six months.

Mauck started dental school at the University of Colorado but clung to hope the leg would improve.A few teams called with interest, though Mauck couldn’t pass a physical. There was even a chance he could have hooked up with Jacksonville late in the season, but he opted to call it quits.

“I would have at least stuck with it. I still would have had to make a team, so I’m not saying I would have played another 10 years, but I do think there was some interest from other teams,” said Mauck, whose parents Roger and Kathy have since moved from Jasper to the Nashville, Tenn., area. “I definitely would have gotten a chance somewhere else had I not gotten hurt.”
Plan B hasn’t turned out so shabby.

After graduating from dental school in 2011, Mauck associated with a dental practice for a year then bought in for half the practice. It’s the same dentist Mauck went to when he was with the Broncos, and Mauck’s firm still handles the dentistry for the Broncos organization.

Under that arrangement, Mauck is allotted a pair of tickets to every Broncos home game — though his allegiance to the franchise where he began his pro career doesn’t exactly qualify as rabid. LSU is the only football team he truly still follows.

“People ask me that all the time if I’m a Denver fan, and I say I am — but I always say, ”˜If someone fired you, would you like them anymore?” Mauck said, with a good-natured laugh.

Sports are largely in the rearview mirror, though Mauck and his wife Jill (Klem), a 1995 Forest Park High School graduate, have completed a few sprint triathlons together. The bulk of their attention is fixed on their two boys, 7-year-old Tyson and 3-year-old Kellen.

Tyson is beginning to flash a curiosity and aptitude for football. But dad and mom remain on the same page in that they’re not trying to force athletics on their kids, as “you have to be passionate about it on your own,” Matt said.

On a smaller scale, Mauck said, he’s begun working with teenage and high-school-age quarterbacks around Denver with individual workouts. He still monitors Jasper High School football remotely, as brother Geoff serves as the offensive coordinator. The two typically chat weekly and Matt also maintains an interest since head coach Tony Ahrens, who was the program’s offensive coordinator in Matt’s prep playing days, was “always a big influence on my life,” he said.

It’s an existence that’s not as glitzy as it was a decade ago when Mauck was competing under the national microscope and one of the best coaches in the history of the college game. He’s fine with that. The memories — and the residual autograph hunters — suffice.

“It doesn’t come up in my mind on a daily basis, but when I first meet someone or kind of just talking about life paths, as I kind of lead them through what my life was like and the things I was able to do, at that point I’m kind of like, ”˜Gosh, that’s kind of a cool deal,’” Mauck said of his foray into two professional sports.

“I feel very fortunate and blessed that I was able to do what I did. There’s no ill feelings, or when I look at a game I don’t say, ”˜Gosh man, I wish that would have been me.’ Because there’s a lot of (down sides) that go along with being an NFL player, too. When you have success it alters your life for good and bad. I’m pretty happy with the life I have now.”

Contact Brendan Perkins at bperkins@dcherald.com.




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