The foot doctor

It started during his days at tiny Sheridan High School near <!--Default For Indianapolis is to ignore-->Indianapolis. <!--Default NodeId For Brad Maynard is 722134,2003--><A HREF=[PlayerNode:722134]>Brad Maynard</A> only wanted to do one thing.

"I was playing defensive back and every time a ball would come towards me in practice, I'd pick it up and punt it," Maynard said. "Finally my defensive backs coach got mad and said, 'Maynard, what the (heck) do you want to do? You want to be a defensive back or do you just want to be a punter?' I told him, 'Coach, quite frankly, I just want to be a punter.' "

The rest is history.

Maynard, now the best friend of the Bears defense, is doing just what he always set out to do. He's turned himself into one of the league's most lethal weapons after becoming the team's best free-agent acquisition two seasons ago.

Maynard, a former New York Giant, hasn't had anything handed to him, either. He walked on at Ball State and later emerged as one of the best kickers in NCAA Division I history.

"Nobody was really looking at me (for college)," Maynard recalled. "I sent letters all over the country, trying to get people interested. It came down to Purdue and Ball State. Purdue basically said they were going to scholarship this kid from Florida and I could walk on, and Indiana said they weren't even interested. So I looked at Ball State -- they had a guy who was going to be a senior -- so I talked it over with my dad and said I'd go there and sit behind him and try to learn and mature a little more.

"I just hoped I'd get a shot the following year to play."

The choice, and the wait, turned into one of Maynard's best decisions. He went on to become an All-American selection and the Mid-American Conference's Defensive Player of the Year and MVP following his senior season in 1996. Maynard's 44.2-yard career average ranks third all-time in NCAA Division I history, second only to Mississippi's Bill Smith and Ray Guy from Southern Mississippi.

"It still surprises me," Maynard said of the accolades. "You would never think a punter would win a defensive MVP award. We had some great players, too, like (former Akron star and current Dolphin) Jason Taylor. The only reason I can come up with was we won the conference that year and our defense was good and I was a big part of that."

Nobody really thinks of a punter as part of the defense, but it takes more than just sacks and tackles to stop teams. Maynard dropped an NFC-high 36 punts inside the opponents' 20-yard line in 2001. Despite struggling at times last year he still averaged 42.3 yards per punt with a net of 37.4.

Maynard led the NFL his rookie season with 33 punts inside the 20, and led the NFC in that category in 1999. In 2000, he was second in the NFC with 26 punts inside the 20, and he set a Super Bowl record with 11 punts in the Giants' loss to the Baltimore Ravens that year.

"I rarely just go in there and boot it," Maynard said. "I usually go in there with a purpose. I usually have a direction picked out, a certain distance, stuff like that. I'm more of a control punter, and that's why I fit in with this team.

"I'm not a guy that's going to kick you out of tons of trouble with my leg, but I do get good hang time and I control my distances and my direction. I'm a good position-type punter."

Maynard signed a five-year deal with the Bears before the 2001 season and says he loves it in Chicago. He grew up about 20 minutes outside Indianapolis, but said he's close enough to make the drive to still see family.

Maynard has been to a Super Bowl and knows what it takes to get there. He just hopes he can kick-start another team in that direction.

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