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© 2023 CFL. All rights reserved.
© 2023 CFL. All rights reserved.
Defensive end Lorenzo Mauldin IV has something to prove this season and he believes the Ottawa REDBLACKS are the team that gives him the best chance to do that.
“I’m not just a one-hit wonder,” Mauldin said in an telephone interview from his home in Louisville, Kentucky.
“I feel like if I can go and do what I did last year, or get close to it, everybody will tell you this guy’s a consistent pass rusher, he’s a top-tier player every year. I’m ready to take on that challenge. That’s the point of playing the game, taking on a challenge.”
Mauldin, the CFL’s Most Outstanding Defensive Player last season, could have become a free agent on Feb. 14. Several teams would have been willing to write a big cheque for the six-foot-four, 259-pound native of Sacramento, CA.
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Instead, Mauldin decided to sign an extension with Ottawa, even after the REDBLACKS struggled to a 4-14 record in 2022.
“I pretty much just wanted to stay,” he said. “Being on the losing side of things, and seeing how hard these guys worked, I wanted to be able to come back and help these guys win a Grey Cup.
“It would be good to win my first (Grey Cup) there, see these guys actually get rewarded for the hard work they put in. I’m always going to rock with my team.”
Besides his belief in the team, Mauldin “fell in love with the city” and believes it’s a great place to raise his family. His wife is expecting the family’s second child in July.
“The food is great,” he said. “I love the scenery. Ottawa is a great place to get out and venture out. They have different parks and things to do around the city.
“My family loves the city. I can’t say that enough.”
Mauldin, who joined the REDBLACKS as a free agent in 2022 after spending two seasons in Hamilton, was a bright light in an otherwise dark year for Ottawa. He set a REDBLACKS single-season record with a CFL-leading 17 sacks. He also recorded 43 tackles, a pair of forced fumbles, and was named a CFL All-Star.
Being selected the CFL’s top defensive player was a highlight for Mauldin, who was selected 82nd overall by the New York Jets in the 2015 NFL Draft after playing college football at the University of Louisville.
“From being in the NFL, I was just trying to prove to everybody I could do it at the pro level,” he said. “It meant a lot to me because I was chosen over so many other great players.
“I’m showing myself that I can still do it, even at 30. I want to prove a point.”
The REDBLACKS stumbled out of the gate last year. Their first win of the season game in Week 8 against Toronto. Six of Ottawa’s first seven losses was by a touchdown or less.
Head coach Paul LaPolice was fired in October and replaced by former special teams coordinator Bob Dyce. After the season ended, defensive coordinator Mike Benevides was replaced by Barron Miles, the former CFL All-Star who has held coaching jobs with BC, Saskatchewan, Winnipeg, Edmonton and Montreal.
Mauldin is eager to see how Miles will use him in the revamped Ottawa defence.
“I’ve never worked with Baron (but) I’ve gone up against his defence, which is pretty good,” he said. “I’m excited to get to work, to get going in a new scheme and see what I can do, the different way they’re going to use me.
“I’m open to see what Barron Miles has for me.”
After being released by the Jets in 2018, Mauldin spent two years in Hamilton. Playing a part-time role, he appeared in 17 games, collecting 13 tackles and four sacks.
“It was definitely difficult for me just to sit and watch,” he said.
So what changed in Ottawa?
“Me being on the field more, that was the deciding factor,” said Mauldin. “Just getting me on the field, letting me do what I do, which is pass rush, stop the run.”
After his break-out season in 2022, Mauldin knows offensive coordinators will be devising new schemes with him in mind.
“I saw that a little bit last year,” he said. “When I got to about sack 12, teams started to double team me.
“I’ll be ready for it. It will be something I have to adjust to but it won’t be hard.”
Few things have come easy in Maudlin’s life. He spent most of his childhood with 16 different foster parents after both his parents were sentenced to long prison terms.
His early years taught him resiliency and a trust in himself.
“I never doubted myself,” he said. “I always bet on myself.
“Being a foster kid has made me the man I am today. When it comes to stuff like football, my family, all that stuff is easy. I did the hard part already. Everything I’ve gone through, it gives me an extra push. It does give me a lot of resilience.”