Home Is Where The Heart Is

There is no place like home. Just ask Aaron Maybin. Though Maybin currently resides in Ellicott, Md., and attends Mount Hebron High, home has begun to feel like the place where he will receive his education and play football: Penn State.

Well-spoken and with a genuine tone in excitement in his voice, Maybin talked to FOS about his official visit to Penn State this past weekend, among a wide variety of other topics, including his acting career and his involvement with the community.

“Obviously it was a great experience to go back to Penn State,” said Maybin, who committed to the Lions in October. “By now it seems like I'm going back home. This was my fifth time going up. I have pretty much seen everything that they showed a lot of the players on the official visits. This visit was very special to see a lot things from a different standpoint. I got to spend some time with my future teammates and get information on what I need to do to get some early playing time. They gave me a lot of reassurance academically. My advisor gave me a lot of helpful advice and insight as to what I should be expecting. The overall visit was very good. It was just great to go back home and spend some time with my new family.”

Maybin, who plans to major in communications, said he is gearing up for his return “back home” — as he likes to put it — when he will begin practice with the Penn State squad this summer. In preparation, Maybin is already bulked up to his current weight of 236 pounds, but will strive to weigh between 240 and 245 pounds upon his summer arrival in Happy Valley. He is still slotted to compete for a spot on Penn State's depleted defensive line at the end position, but Maybin will have to wait until he returns “home” this summer before the actual competition starts. Until then, Maybin remains “homesick.”

“I'd probably say by third visit it really did feel like was I was developing a family-type relationship at Penn State,” Maybin said. “That was one of the factors that swayed me. It was really just a great experience with me. It almost seemed like the second I committed, everybody on the team - the coaches, the players, the fans, the grad assistants - everyone embraced me with open arms. It's one thing when you're recruited and they treat you well and show how much they want you to go to the school, but even after committing, with open arms they embraced me.”

And then there's the Ohio State game. By the time signing day rolls around, many can look back at the Penn State vs. Ohio State matchup on Oct. 8 as the turning point in the Nittany Lions' recruiting efforts. It was very much a key for Maybin, who made the trek to Happy Valley for an unofficial visit that weekend.

“That game was a very pivotal point for Penn State, but it was also a big day for me, to tell you the truth,” Maybin said. “I had been there a couple times over the summer, and once earlier in the season at the game they played against Cincinnati. They played well. Over the summer, I got to see a lot of the academic presentations. Academically and socially, I saw a lot of the factors. I really felt comfortable with the academic situation at Penn State at the time I visited for the Ohio State game.”

As for the game itself, Maybin was speechless.

“I wouldn't do it justice trying to put that game in words,” Maybin said. “The atmosphere was phenomenal. The players played with everything. To be there, and to see the fans' reactions, it really did a lot to show me that this is a great place. The fan support helped win me over. They have camped out for a little over a week to get the best seats. They were out there in the rain. The game was just a great example of what Penn State football is. After that game, it did a lot to win me over and to persuade me that Penn State was definitely the place for me.”

Beyond the game itself, Penn State has secured commitments from three of the state of Maryland's top-10 football prospects, namely Maybin, Navorro Bowman and A.J. Wallace, and is actively perusing addition top-10 talent including J.B. Walton, Phillip Taylor and Antonio Logan-El. Maybin talked about the bond between all of Maryland's recruits this year.

“I think this year in particular, the class of Maryland recruits is especially close,” Maybin said. “My relationship with a lot of the guys started a little over a year ago. We've known each other for a while now. I can't attribute it to anything other than a lot of us are looking for the same thing in a school and the same qualities. Like anybody, if you are going to be in a position where you want to win a national championship, you want the best players with you. A lot of us realized this is an attainable goal and you want the guys you've been friends with and the ones you've established personal relationships to fight and attain those goals. I think that along with the fact that Penn State has done a phenomenal job in recruiting, and [us] talking amongst each other and giving each other points … I think that this year is going to be a special year for all of the recruits in Maryland.”

Maybin was then posed two questions. The first: Who was the last committed Maryland prospect he had recently spoken to?

“I just left Navorro [Bowman], he was up there,” Maybin said. “We spent a lot of time up there. We're talking about some of the things that are happening. He has surgery on Wednesday and he was still recuperating. He is still on the medication and started physical therapy [Friday]. He was still really excited. He started classes that week. He was happy to be in the system and finally have a chance to get on campus. Even though he just had surgery, he was upbeat and optimistic. He'll be ready for the summer. It's still up in the air [if Bowman will be ready for spring lifting and practice], he's working toward it.”

The second question: Who was the last non-committed Maryland prospect he had spoken to?

“Me and Antonio. It's kind of funny, my cousin went to his school last year and that's how we were introduced,” Maybin said. “I think we met for the first time at a Maryland recruiting function. We hit it off the first day we met. We spent a lot of time talking. We went to a Virginia recruiting event at the same time also and exchanged numbers. We started to realize that we were looking for the same qualities at each institution. We started calling each other after each visit and compared schools, and genuinely see how each is doing. We ended up going up together [to the Penn State game against Ohio State] that day and that night. We had a lot of fun during the game. When I called [Logan-El on Sunday], I was on my way back from Penn State, and he was on his way back from Florida. Even then we were talking and comparing each other's visits.”

During the Ohio State game in Happy Valley, Maybin spent the weekend with current Penn State commitment Jared Odrick, as well as Logan-El. Logan-El, who is set to announce his commitment on Jan. 24 from the ESPN Zone in Baltimore, will have one of his friends in attendance.

“I'll be at his announcement on the 24th, and I'll support him either way,” Maybin said. “He's a great football player and he's a guy I want on my team. He shares the same goals and the same mentality. It is a friendship that has lasted.”

Maybin stressed that he will be attending Logan-El's press conference as a friend, but also discussed his relationship with Odrick.

“Me and Jared have been friends for a while,” Maybin said. “He's a guy that I always ended up being in the same place with as far as the recruiting functions and at the other schools. Early on, we exchanged numbers. We did a lot of work talking to each other.”

Outside of football, Maybin is extremely involved in his school and in his community.

“I do a little bit of drama at the school,” Maybin said. “I've done a few of the school plays.”

Maybin is also part of a school community service group called “Celebrating the Achievement of African-American Males.” The group consists of high school students who speak at local elementary and middle schools to talk to students about excelling academically and athletically.

“Our goal is to raise the achievement level of African-American males in our district's school systems,” Maybin said. “We go and give talks and meet with the younger kids, and give them our insight on what needs to be done. We help them set attainable goals.”

Maybin is somewhat a celebrity in his community, as the last time an athlete from Mount Hebron High landed a Division I football scholarship was in 1972.

“I'm in a very fortunate position right now,” Maybin said. “In my area, there hasn't' been a guy that's been heavily recruited in some time. My community has really supported me and it's been an exciting time, for me, my football team and my school. When we go out to schools, it's good that I have that support. [The students] watch us play and hear the stories about what's going on, I think it's good because the [younger students] on the football team take what we have to say to heart, even more so sometimes than they listen to their teachers. We try to convince them to be sound academically and have a healthy balance of sports and social life. Seventy-five percent of the African-American children will say they want to be in the NBA or NFL or a professional athlete. That's what the stats are in this area. It's kind of sad that a lot of them have talent, but they don't know what it takes to make those goals happen. We try to help them understand that they have to map out a course of action and decide, that the first step for them is to go to college. If your goal is to be an NFL player, then first your goal is to get to college. We try to help them realize that if they keep their grades up, that it will be a lot easier to reach those goals.”

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