Snapshot: Marquis Maze

Undrafted rookie wide receiver Marquis Maze is already a hit with a Steelers fan base that can tell talent when it sees talent. Read Dale Lolley's profile.

For most rookies trying to earn a spot with the Pittsburgh Steelers, the rabid fan base that follows the team is a shock.

After all, it's not in every NFL city that even undrafted rookies are asked for autographs and recognized around town before they've even put on a jersey.

But for rookie wide receiver/return man Marquis Maze, the attention he got around Pittsburgh after signing with the team as an undrafted rookie was nothing new.

A former Alabama star, Maze (5-8, 194) is accustomed to being in the spotlight, something many of his fellow rookies just can't fathom.

"I don't think they do. I talked to my roommates. I've got one from Colorado (Toney Clemons) and another from Louisiana Tech (Terry Carter), and they really don't understand," Maze said. "They say that the Steelers fans are just like Alabama fans. I'm looking forward to it."

How crazy are Alabama fans?

Consider that during the 2010 season, 62-year-old Alabama fan Harvey Almorn Updyke decided to apply a lethal dose of herbicide to a pair of 130-year-old oak trees on the campus of hated rival Auburn, killing the trees.

Updyke reportedly has children named Bear and Crimson.

"He did want to name one of them Roll Tide, but his wife wouldn't let him. It's crazy," said Maze. "I think those are the best fans around. They stuck by us each year."

The Crimson Tide gave their fans plenty of reason to stick behind them last season when they won a BCS National Championship by defeating fellow SEC rival LSU.

LSU had beaten Alabama earlier in the regular season, 9-6, in overtime. But the Crimson Tide won the more important matchup, 21-0.

After the first meeting, everyone expected another low-scoring, defensive battle in the title game.

But Maze had different ideas.

Maze had six catches for 61 yards in the first meeting, but he threw an interception while playing quarterback in the Wildcat formation in the fourth quarter and was pretty much a non-factor in the return game, something he excels at.

"I can't speak for other guys, but I know that I did. I felt like I made some bad plays on special teams the first time we played them," Maze said. "I said to myself, if I had another opportunity to play them, I would be aggressive. I did get the opportunity and made a nice play, but I ended up getting hurt. So I didn't get to do everything I wanted to do."

Maze nearly broke free for a score on his first punt return in the BCS Championship game, going 39 yards before being tackled. But he also suffered a hamstring pull on the play that sidelined him for the remainder of the contest.

Maze rushed back to workout at the NFL combine, but his injury wasn't completely healed. As a result, he posted pedestrian workout numbers at the combine, at least for a player who had been such a dynamic contributor for a national championship team.

The injury and concerns about his size caused Maze to go undrafted. He's working hard because of the snub.

"I've never really been forced to try and make a team," Maze said. "This is the first time I've ever tried out for something, so it's not easy.

"I think I've responded well. Not being picked and me feeling like I was one of the best in the nation at what I do, I have a chip on my shoulder. I come out here every day with a chip on my shoulder, wanting to make this team."

Maze feels Alabama's pro-style offense and head coach Nick Saban's NFL background also gives him a leg up on the completion.

"Coming from Coach Saban's offense, it gives me an advantage over guys who come from a spread. I'm used to a pro-style offense," Maze said. "They know the pedigree that I come from, so I think it gives me an advantage.

"On and off the field, we were treated like pros. The transition was pretty easy for me."

(Dale Lolley appears courtesy of the Observer-Reporter.)


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