Josh Mauga isn’t afraid to admit his time in the NFL could be over.
Plagued by injuries for most of his career since competing at Nevada, the 2005 Fallon grad was cut by the Kansas City Chiefs during the preseason after missing all of last year to injury. With his two best seasons in the NFL coming in 2014 and 2015, Mauga’s hopeful his phone will ring soon with a team needing a linebacker to help get it to the playoffs.
“For now, I’m trying to stay in shape and be ready when that happens,” Mauga said this week. “You don’t want to see anyone get hurt but that’s the nature of the business. It’s a sport that guys get hurt every year. I’m thankful. It’s allowed me to spend more time with my family and get stuff done around the house.”
When Mauga’s healthy, he’s been the dark horse on defense that not many know about but his statistics say otherwise. He led the team in tackles three years ago and in 2015, he started 14 games, recorded two interceptions and helped the Chiefs to a playoff win over Houston.
Unfortunately, though, Mauga’s body has given him problems. Staying healthy has been a bigger challenge than worrying about making the team. But with eight seasons under his belt, the time could be over soon when Mauga hangs up his jersey and cleats for good.
He’s OK with that.
“I’m definitely close. It’s been a good run,” he said. “If no teams call this year, I’m ready to move on. I’m not going to kill myself over it.”
And what a run it’s been for Mauga, who will be inducted next month in the inaugural class of the Greenwave Hall of Fame.
His career started with the Greenwave last decade when Fallon was still in the 4A. Mauga and the Greenwave snapped a Homecoming curse by defeating North Valleys and upset Galena on the road in his senior season when he was named the MVP of the Sertoma all-star football game. He was also a state champ in wrestling and discus.
Mauga played both ways in football, which was no surprise with the smaller schools, but he was a force at linebacker and running back. The trio of Tommy Diaz, Tyler Simper and Mauga in the backfield was dangerous and Mauga put on a show with hit after hit on defense. There was no doubt that he was the best player in the north and possibly the state.
Mauga played all four years at Nevada and started as a true freshman when Nevada upset nationally ranked Fresno State and then won the Hawaii bowl. In his last game at Mackay Stadium, Mauga picked off Boise State quarterback Kellen Moore and returned it for a touchdown. That was a surreal moment seeing one of Fallon’s finest snag the ball in the air before us on the sideline and then run it back in front of the zonies.
Like his predecessor — Harvey Dahl — Mauga went undrafted and signed a free-agent contract with the New York Jets after college. Mauga didn’t play much at first but the stars did their best to align when the Jets and Dahl’s Falcons were on course to facing each other in the Super Bowl. The Packers upset the Falcons in the first round and the Jets lost to the Steelers in the AFC title game.
Mainly a special teams player, Mauga was a third-down linebacker on the Jets. He’s rushed against numerous quarterbacks, including Tom Brady and Peyton Manning. Mauga’s first visit to the Bay Area came in 2011 with the Jets and then he returned in 2014 with the Chiefs as they played the 49ers in their new home.
If Mauga doesn’t suit up again this season and feels it’s time to move on, there’s no shame in that. He’s produced a career that every boy and girl envies when they’re playing sports. They see that reaching the professional level can be possible. It’s not fairytale but it is difficult. It requires hard work, dedication, persistence and most of all, support from your family, friends and the community.
The Fallon community stands above others because of its unconditional support for its student-athletes. It supports those who are only in it for the high school season. It supports those who want to play collegiately and one day, hope to get that phone call welcoming you to the NFL.
It happened to Dahl when the Cowboys called him after the draft, and it happened to Mauga with the Jets. It can happen to anyone.
For Mauga, though, the journey from tearing up the football field with the Greenwave, Wolf Pack, Jets and Chiefs could soon be over. But what an amazing adventure it’s been for not just Mauga, but for the community to witness one of its own represent the valley with dignity and class on football’s biggest stage.
Thomas Ranson can be contacted at email@example.com.