Every journey begins somewhere. When it comes to the NFL, no two paths are the same. I recently sat down and spoke with a young man who is currently training to reach his dream of becoming an NFL player. Cornerback Mercy Maston of Boise State has already overcome adversity on more than one occasion. He spoke passionately about his desire to reach the NFL and succeed at the next level. Here is what he had to say...
Paul Conner: Thanks for taking the time to talk to Breaking Burgundy today. First, why don't you tell Redskins fans a little about yourself? Where did you spend your college career and what did you learn from the experience?
Mercy Maston: My name is Mercy Maston and I'm from Bakersfield, California. I attended Bakersfield College (JUCO) and Boise State University. After starting at a junior college, I was able to reach D-1 where school is paid for, and played games that were on national television. I set those goals early and it felt amazing to accomplish them. It basically taught me how to work hard, and enjoy the process through the ups and downs.
Paul Conner: That's a positive way to battle back from adversity. I understand your JUCO career wasn't because a lack of offers coming out of high school. What's the story behind that and what teams were interested?
Mercy Maston: I maintained a solid G.P.A. throughout high school but I could never get my A.C.T. or S.A.T. to match my grades in order to pass the NCAA clearing house rules. I received offers from Fresno State and Boise State of the WAC Mountain West, and offers from UCLA, USC, and Washington of the Pac 12. Out of high school, the two colleges I wanted to attend, and I took a trip to, were UCLA and Arizona State.
Paul Conner: Bakersfield College eventually allowed you to achieve those academic goals. When it came time, who did you choose Boise State over and why?
Mercy Maston: I attended Bakersfield College for two years and enrolled in at Boise State during summer conditioning. I chose Boise state over Arizona, Fresno State, Kansas, Mississippi State, and Nevada. I chose Boise State because of Chris Peterson's winning tradition, the blue turf, and the opportunity he presented to me. I committed to Boise early going into my sophomore year. Coach Chudy also had a good connection with Chris Peterson and his staff.
Paul Conner: There was a lot of buzz around you when you committed to Boise State. Did you hear any of it and did it give you confidence?
Mercy Maston: I heard about the buzz didn't pay too much attention to it because I like to consider myself an underdog regardless of any situation.
Paul Conner: That is certainly one way to keep a chip on your shoulder. You contributed early during your first season in 2013, putting up a solid stat line and starting the last four games of the year. How long did it take to lose the jitters and what moment/play made you feel like you belonged?
Mercy Maston: I lost my jitters in the season opener vs. Washington in front of a crowd of about 70,000 and when I made an impressive 3rd down stop I knew I belonged. I started rotating in to games at nickel at first and finally, Coach Jimmy Lake started me on the outside for the last four games.
Paul Conner: The impressive third down stop is not surprising considering the film I watched on you. Unfortunately, you weren't able to carry that momentum into 2014 as an injury caused you to redshirt that year. Tell us a little about your injury, and why you chose to redshirt when it was reported to be only a five week injury. Who did you consult?
Mercy Maston: I love to come up and hit. Just the other day, Deion Sanders said you can't teach that. It's either you can or can't, and Mercy Maston can come up and hit. That injury really hurt my momentum especially with a coaching change. It all started with me getting stress fractures in my fibula from over working my body, and taking no days off going into fall camp of my true senior year. I sat out the five weeks to have my stress fractures heal. It healed after the five weeks, but I wasn't in-shape for the season because I hadn't been practicing. I ended up talking to my family and we came to the conclusion that it was best I sit out the entire season and come ready for a redshirt senior year. I came into spring ball healthy and ended up getting the same stress fractures. Going into the summer, I ended up getting a bi-lateral release surgery on both of my legs to prevent the stress fractures, and I missed the summer conditioning going into my redshirt senior year.
Paul Conner: Have you changed the way you work out at all or are the surgeries enough to prevent this type of injury from happening in the future?
Mercy Maston: The surgeries will definitely help and I've made my workouts more about quality than quantity.
Paul Conner: You've spent time in JUCO College and had a redshirt season because of an injury. How old will you be when the NFL season kicks off in September?
Mercy Maston: I'll be 23 years old.
Paul Conner: What kind of schemes did Boise State primarily run? Press or off, man or zone, and how does your performance vary in each?
Mercy Maston: We ran a little of everything; Cover 0, Cover 1, 2, 3, and Quarters coverage. We played some trap defenses, too. It all depended on our opponent. Our defense was versatile and I'm a very versatile guy. I'll get the job done. My personal favorite is man to man pressed up on an island.
Paul Conner: I'm glad you mentioned your favorite because that leads into my next question. You played as a boundary cornerback in 2013 and moved to slot/nickel in 2015. Where do you feel your strengths are better utilized and why the move?
Mercy Maston: That's a hard one. l have to say my strength is better utilized just being on the field. I can be on special teams flying around making plays. I moved inside to the slot/nickel because the new coaching staff said I was too big to play corner. I took it as a challenge to play nickelback and another way to show my versatility on the field.
Paul Conner: You just mentioned Special Teams. All things considered, your first impact for a franchise might come there. How important are special teams to you?
Mercy Maston: Special teams are very important to me. I played a lot of special teams at Boise State. I can contribute early on special teams for any team.
Paul Conner: That's the kind of attitude NFL teams are looking for. Tell us more about the demeanor of Mercy Maston and what he brings to a football team.
Mercy Maston: I’m a hard worker and a competitor. I’m a true professional on and off the field. I’m a student of the game; always wanting to learn something new. I’m ready to come in, be a special teams demon and earn a role in nickel packages.
Paul Conner: Coaches are going to love that. Switching gears real quick, the NFL Combine was this past week and you didn't receive an invite. In 2015, 41 players were drafted that didn't attend the Combine. Do you use the snub as motivation or do you not even acknowledge it?
Mercy Maston: I honestly don't pay attention to that.
Paul Conner: I imagine it just fits in with the underdog role you already employ. You were able to work out at the regional combine and I have your numbers posted below.
Any numbers you expect to approve upon for you Pro Day on March 31st?
Mercy Maston: I want to set the bar high for pro-day. I'm looking forward to improving on all my numbers. Starting to focus a little more on position specific skills to show what I'm capable of doing.
Paul Conner: Where are you currently training and are there any other 2016 NFL Draft hopefuls also working out there?
Mercy Maston: I'm currently training in Las Vegas at Athletic Gains. Ronnie Stanley, Shaquille Powell, Marteze Waller, Darion Griswold, Ge'shun Harris, Tautvydas Kieras and Miles Grooms are also training there.
Paul Conner: Can you give our fans a pro player comparison for yourself? Who do you compare to and how are your games similar?
Mercy Maston: I have a little Eric Berry to my game and a little Darrelle Revis. I'm confident like they are, I'm aggressive and I like to be in press-man situations. Plus, I can play on the outside and in the slot.
Paul Conner: Who was your favorite team growing up?
Mercy Maston: Growing up in California, I would go to Raiders games because my cousin was a cheerleader there. But personally, I grew up a Seattle Seahawks fan. I'm a big fan of the Legion of Boom.
Paul Conner: Redskins GM Scot McCloughan was actually in Seattle while they were assembling the Legion of Boom. He is currently trying to put the secondary together in Washington. He is an elite evaluator who above all else, puts on emphasis on true "football players." Do you think you're the type of player he would be looking for and would you fit in with this rebuild project?
Mercy Maston: Yes. Scot McCloughan said he is looking to draft good football players and that's what I am; a good football player. I proved my versatility at Boise State by playing safety, nickel, and corner. I brought physicality and tenacity on special teams. I'm a blue-collar player and come from a blue-collar program. I understand football games are won with a team not just individuals. Off the field, I'm an honest, moral, caring and courageous guy.
Paul Conner: Do you know much about the Washington Redskins and their history? Are there any of their current/past players that you've particularly liked?
Mercy Maston: I don't know a ton about their history. I've been to the stadium for a visit before but not to any games. I actually know safety Duke Ihenacho. He was my host when I took my visit to San Jose State.
Paul Conner: What songs get you hype before you step out on that field?
Mercy Maston: First off, I'm a fan of all music. I wake up listening to gospel music. By mid-day, I switch up to country music; a little Darius Rucker, Eric Church, and some Luke Bryant. But right before game time, I'm blasting Future!
Paul Conner: If you can play man to man press coverage against one receiver, past or present, who would it be and why?
Mercy Maston: That's easy: Antonio Brown. He's one of the elite wideouts in the league.
Paul Conner: I expected nothing less. Well Mercy, I just want to thank you for taking the time out of your training schedule to sit down with Breaking Burgundy and answer a few questions to let the fans get to know you a little better. Any final words or thoughts you want to leave fans with?
Mercy Maston: I'm looking forward to making plays in the National Football League and I'd be excited if it's for the Redskins!!! #HTTR
You can follow Mercy Maston on Twitter @AlmightySecojr and stay up to date on his journey to the NFL. Check out his highlights below:
Paul Conner is the Film Analyst at Breaking Burgundy. You can follow him on Twitter @P_ConnerJr