Brandon Maye was a ferocious linebacker for the Clemson defense from 2008 to 2010. He was a Freshman All-American in 2008 when he recorded 87 tackles—leading all ACC freshmen and the most by a Clemson freshman since Anthony Simmons in 1995. He is now a published author and pours his tenacity into his new vocation—inspiring others. Maye has traded his pen for a microphone and is a professional motivational speaker whose engagements have ranged from football teams to law firms. In fact, Dabo Swinney invited him to return to Clemson and speak to the team for the second consecutive year.
Q: You spoke to the team two years in a row now. Was your delivery different in any way this time around?
BM: “This year was a little different. I scaled back the motivation and the loud screaming. These guys are really dialed in. The Deshaun Watsons and Mackensie Alexanders. And the freshman, #75 (Mitch Hyatt), they’re dialed in and I’ve never seen this before! Maybe it’s got something to do with Coach Swinney and the wining and dining they do with the protein shakes and great meals and so forth. But they’re really locked in, and so this year we scaled back the motivation side and dealt more with information, hitting some key points that they can apply to their lives beyond football.
To me, information is rewarding, and it changes the situation. Say one of these guys is in a bar one night, and someone tries to pick a fight. He has to make a decision—he can either punch the guy in the face or walk out. Coach Swinney and the staff they have around them do a great job of feeding them information and positivity, so when that moment comes they can make the right decision.
We talked about dialing in on the process and honing in on the little things. Being at practice, making all your cuts right. Just the process in general. Everyone wants the prize, but no one wants the process. So that’s what we talked about this time.”
Q: When did you realize that you had it within yourself to make this a career? Did you consider yourself a vocal leader in your playing days?
BM: “It was a mixture, depending on the situation. When I talked, I wanted people to know I meant business. But sometimes I led by example. It just depended on what the situation called for. But as far as my career choice, I’m a firm believer that when you have darkness in your life it’s going to go one of two ways. Like when I was a 3-year starter at Clemson and had to transfer my senior year because my grandma got sick, and I needed to be closer to home. Or when I had to have reconstructive surgery on my Achilles. I was suicidal at one point because I didn’t feel my worth anymore on this earth. But when I started writing and people loved the story, I found fulfillment in motivating people. Through my life, I want God to be able to say, 'Well done, My good and faithful servant.'"
Q: So have you always been a spiritual, religious person, or has that been a recent development?
BM: “Well, God has a weird way of molding, developing and shaping you. I went through so much humility over two or three years. I hit rock bottom. I had $5.75 to my name, and that was my bottom. Since then, I’ve started two companies. I have an auto detailing business, and I’m also a construction broker, but I have an LLC for my speaking engagements, and that’s really what I would love to do on a full-time basis. I would love to be able to just stay in South Carolina and pour my heart out to people. But the spiritual aspect has definitely helped me develop my message because I really feel like I’m a vessel. Every time I go in, I stay humble because it’s truly a gift from God. Getting up and doing a 45-minute presentation by myself is something that I know I couldn’t do all on my own. But I try to make sure that when I leave, somebody’s life has changed, and I know that’s all God. So I would say my spirituality is a huge part of where I draw the strength to deliver my messages.”
Q: Has it been difficult to juggle all the responsibilities that come with being a Jack of many trades?
BM: “Well, ‘Built by Clemson’ right? Dabo said that today. Coach Swinney, Batson and the other coaches around me here really prepared me for life, so it’s easy to apply what I learned at Clemson to my professional life.”
Q: What were your impressions of Dan Mullen at Mississippi State?
BM: “He’s an excellent, amazing guy. He reminds me of Coach Swinney. His philosophy is to make the players feel as comfortable as possible with you. Like I’ve seen Coach Swinney doing dance moves on Youtube! He understands that you’re in this together, so don’t make your players feel like you’re a distant CEO. So Coach Mullen is a lot like that too.”
Q: Tell me a little bit about your book.
BM: “Well it’s called Diamond in the Rough, and it was published two years ago. I wrote it in four weeks. I was in a tough spot in my life, and I think sometimes God puts you in those situations to bring out your creativity.”
Q: How have you developed your public speaking skills, and have you battled nervousness or anxiety the way most people do?
BM: “As I was driving here, I was asking myself where I acquired this skill because I actually dropped my speech class a couple of times. Then it occurred to me that maybe it was all the post-game interviews and talking to reporters. Or maybe it was being a middle linebacker and being the quarterback of the defense that helped sharpen my skills. But I also think that they will hear what God wants them to hear, and He is just using me to push that message out. I’m always trying to get better, though, and find new ways to reach the audience.”
Q: Have you had some of the players contact you directly as a mentor?
BM: “Yeah, over the last two years, people like Mackensie Alexander, Deshaun Watson, B.J. Goodson and some other players have asked me to be a mentor to them on an individual basis. I’m open to everybody.”
Q: And you have also expanded your work to some corporate engagements as well, not just athletes, correct?
BM: “When it first started out, it was mostly athletes, but then it expanded to companies like Mary Kay and State Farm. Then it was colleges, high schools, law firms, non-profit organizations, etc. The message has been about character development and to go ‘All In’ every day at work and in life in general. It’s not just about sports. One of the things I told the team is that if you die today, what do you want your legacy to be? You want to die with your tank on ‘E.’ You don’t want to die with a quarter of a tank left. You should come with your 'A game' every single day. Just like the saying, Carpe Diem--seize the day! One of the ways I approach my day is that when I leave the house in the morning, I tell myself I’m not coming back. Then I ask myself what I want to be remembered for if I die today. And that keeps pushing me on a daily basis.”
Q: Did you get homesick for Alabama at any point while you were at Clemson?
BM: “Yeah, my freshman year, I broke my foot and so I red-shirted. I was going to play as a true freshman, but the lifestyle when you’re red-shirting is totally different. I called my mom up on the phone and told her to meet me because I was coming home. She told me ‘I hope you like working at McDonald’s because that’s where you’re going.’ When she said that, I became a good scout team player.”
Q: Have you traveled a lot for your speaking engagements, or has it been mostly in the southeast?
BM: “Oh, I’ve been all the way to California. I’ll go anywhere to speak. Even if it’s just for five people. I’ll tell them to book me because those five people won’t be the same when I leave.”
Q: What are some of your fond memories of playing in Death Valley?
BM: “I think Florida State, in 2009, the ‘We Will Rock You Game,’ when McDaniel caught the pick and put Christian Ponder on his back. I turned around, and D-Mac was catching the pick on the sideline. I said, ‘Oh my, he’s about to go to the house!’ When I saw Ponder coming, I saw DeAndre start smiling and pointing, I said ‘oh my, this is about to get crazy!' And boom, the dude’s shoulder just hit the deck.
Then there was that Virginia game—last home game of the season—we had to have that game to seal the division. First play of the game, I hit the guy in the backfield, and he fumbled the ball. That kind of set the tone for that game.”
Q: Do you still keep in touch with many of your old teammates from Clemson?
BM: “Probably the guy I talk to the most is Byron Maxwell. He really proved a lot of people wrong who doubted him. I like guys like that.”
Brandon has a unique ability to move and inspire people—whether it’s in a locker room or a board room. His success story is a great one, and I’d enthusiastically encourage any executives, employers and decision-makers out there to reach out to him about speaking to your organization. You can reach him through his website, www.brandonmaye.com, and you can follow him on Twitter at B. Maye Inspirations (@BrandonMaye_).