Every year has been an audition for Josh Mauga.
Plagued by multiple injuries since playing for the Wolf Pack, the 2005 Fallon grad and former all-state linebacker is arguably facing the most challenging year of his short, three-year career in the NFL.
“I just take it like every other year. Every year is a tryout and a year to perform well,” he said. “This year is no different than the other. In terms of experience, I think the only difference is I have more experience in the game and system. My expectations are to perform on a different level. It’s time to set the bar up and try to have a great year.”
Since going undrafted, Mauga was signed twice by the Jets after being let go briefly before the 2010 season when New York gave him another shot. Mauga didn’t disappoint when he made his debut on Halloween three years ago, and he followed with a solid 2011 year despite the Jets missing the playoffs.
Mauga, however, picked up where he left off last year as he played in most third-down situations and was used more frequently in passing situations, but another injury left him sidelined for most of the season as he saw the Jets and their quarterback circus miss the playoffs again. After months of recovery and rehab from the pectoral muscle injury, he’s vowed to make a strong comeback in 2013 as the Jets open camp this week.
“I feel great, my body feels great and I’m just ready to roll now,” Mauga said.
The Jets look differently since Mauga last stepped onto the field in October.
Management cleaned up leaving head coach Rex Ryan one of the few remaining Jets since Mauga was signed three years ago. Gone is quarterback Tim Tebow with the crazed media following, but more importantly for Mauga, the No. 1 linebacker on the depth chart is no longer with the Jets. New York released Bart Scott, leaving the position open for competition.
“Coming in, we have a young team, with me being there in my fourth year,” said Mauga, who wears No. 53. “I’m one of a few guys who has been on the team since the 2010 season. Being somewhat of a seasoned vet, there are a lot of expectations for me to come out and perform consistently. I’ve now been in system for four years and playing for Rex the past four.”
Since the injury, Mauga’s been trying to get back to full strength and said this is the best he’s felt in two years. During the recovery, Mauga went through physical therapy, range of motion, weight lifting and running.
“I look forward to just getting back on the field, getting the pads on and getting the chance to hit somebody,” said Mauga, who trained with fellow Fallon grad Tyler Simper in Reno during the past five weeks. “Being out since October of last year, that’s a long time. That’ pretty much the whole season. I’m just excited to getting back on the field and playing with my teammates and winning some games.”
But not all of the time spent off the field was devoted to getting healthy.
Mauga and his wife, Amanda, welcomed their second child, Brynlee, five months ago. They also have a son, Iosua, who turned 2. The Maugas also bought a house in Reno recently to reside during the offseason and stay close to family and friends.
Mauga’s biggest fans — his parents — also plan to visit New Jersey to watch their son compete this season. New York doesn’t visit the West Coast this season after hosting the 49ers last year and the Raiders this season.
“They will most likely fly out to one of my games,” he said. “It’s a bummer that there are no West Coast games. They’ll definitely see one in New Jersey for sure.”
And his father still has the NFL Ticket package when the Jets are televised locally.
“That was a must. He doesn’t care about any other channel as long as he has the NFL Ticket,” Mauga said.