Becoming Mentally Tough

One year ago, Chris Maragos was just trying to figure out the right place to stand. Now, entering camp as the starting free safety, the senior transfer from Western Michigan counts his blessing about his journey and talks about fine tuning his position.

Badger Nation: Can you tell that when you come outside and work that the energy as a whole is so much different?

Chris Maragos: Yeah totally. You come outside, it feels like you have more freedom. You don't have a roof over your head, the weather is nice, everybody has been cooped up all winter down in the dungeon working out all winter. It feels good to get out here and run around and play free. The weather was beautiful today.

BN: How much time did you spend down in the dungeon working all this off season? Was it that and a combination of watching film that took up the majority of your time?

CM: Both. I definitely wanted to expand myself physically, but mentally was really something I had an emphasis on this spring, too. I think mentally is the key for me right now; keep grasping the defense, getting better at my communication and keep improving overall. Mentally, it was a pretty healthy dose of that in the off season.

BN: You look at where you were one year ago, you have to be amazed with the strides you have made? Mentally a year ago, you were just trying to figure out what you were doing and now you've come into camp as the starter. It's probably been a big blessing?

CM: Goodness, man, God has been so good to me. Just to see the Lord has brought me through all this stuff; switching to the defense and just coming here. The other day, we were out her on Tuesday, I was just looking around and looking at the stadium. I remember, I was sitting up there (points) in section B, row 26 since I've probably been in kindergarten. Just to come out here is phenomenal. From last year to now, unreal. Last year you run around like a chicken with your head cut off half time, but this spring being able to come in and mentally prepare and just understanding things and grasping it. Now it's not so much understanding the defense but fine tuning myself as an athlete and the defense. Little quirks like that.

BN: What's it like working with Randall McCray and how has his move to the safety coaching role gelled with you guys?

CM: It's been a great. He's always been around, too, so we've definitely been familiar with him. Now, we definitely have a lot more connection now that he's with the defensive backs. He's been great. That guy has so much energy and it brings so much excitement to our d-backs. He's got so much experience with the d-line, the linebackers and the whole defense in general. We'll be in meetings, and Coach Cooks does a great job with us too, but he'll (McCray) tell us where the linebackers are fitting, where the defensive line should look when we're watching film with him. Different things like that, which helps us a lot to see the big picture.

BN: Your secondary was striving for playmakers last year. You had Niles (Brinkley) with four picks and Allen (Langford) with two of them and the shutdown corner. You don't have Allen now. Can a bunch of people be playmakers and who have you seen step up this spring and be playmakers?

CM: Aaron Henry has done some great things. He's obviously continuing to improve. He brings a fresh off fresh air to the d-backs. Jay Valai is always making big hits; Aubrey Pleasant comes in and does good things; Shane Carter is a big-play guy; hopefully I can add plays myself, too and Niles has real good ball skills and does a good job. All the way around, we've got some young corners coming up that can make plays. We've got a lot of guys that are doing some good things. Everybody needs to take it to them for them to take into themselves that they can be the man.

BN: It seems like youth, talent and a dose of experience are the themes for your unit this year. Would you agree with that?

CM: Yes. We do have a lot of experience, more so at the safety position. If you look at Aaron, he had a year (playing) and Niles what he's done, he's had a lot of experience, too. We've got four safeties with a pretty plentiful experience in the backfield. We're young but at the same time too, I feel we have a good blend of experience and youth and we're all just feeding off each other to help each other out.

BN: When you watch the film last year, there are probably a bunch of things you wanted to work on, but what was one of the things you tried to focus on coming into spring, knowing that you needed to get it down to be a better safety?

CM: I think mentally for me is to just continue with that; understand where I need to be, put myself in good positions to make plays and get better at the post and understand where I need to be, where my threats are, who I am looking at, who I am keyed at so I put myself in the right spot to make plays.

BN: There's obviously a lot of things that this team needs to accomplish first, but how excited is the team and you as seniors to turn the page and get started with the season?

CM: I think that definitely starts in the off season, too. Coach Doeren had a good quote, "Noah built the ark before it rained." Just preparing and preparing yourself mentally, visualizing yourself making plays when you are working out or whatever what you are doing. If you are doing d-b drills, making a break to pick off a slant, whatever it is. I think just mentally you can do in during the off season and really get exciting for the season. Ultimately, we'll be ready to perform.

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