Bills top draft pick Aaron Maybin has a very solid skill set. His ability to explode off the snap and get around the edge of an offensive line is what made him a top 15 selection last weekend. Tremendous physical ability however, does not always translate into a successful NFL career. Fortunately for Maybin he's surrounded himself with a support system that not only knows the NFL game, but excelled in it.
Maybin already comes from a strong family background as his father Michael Maybin is an ordained minister in suburban Baltimore. But Maybin at a young age crossed paths with some NFL standouts and continues those relationships today.
The Bills defensive end first came in contact with Baltimore linebacker Ray Lewis as a middle schooler when he participated in one of Lewis' local charity functions. It was there that Maybin was introduced to then Washington Redskins linebacker Lavar Arrington.
"He's got a picture of us making muscles together and mine is a lot bigger than his because he was a string bean back then," said Arrington who accompanied Maybin to Buffalo for his introduction to the media last Sunday. "We just clicked."
"There are just certain people that you meet throughout your career and you try to hold onto them because you never know when you'll be in a situation where somebody can really lend you a helping hand that will go a long way for you," said Maybin.
At that time Arrington, a three-time Pro Bowl linebacker, had already started on a path of mentoring young promising football players with NFL aspirations.
"The first guy that I really got into deeply mentoring was Shawne Merriman," said Arrington, who was an influence on the Chargers pass rusher as he was preparing himself for his NFL career at the University of Maryland. "I imparted a lot of what I had inside of me to him. He actually went to high school with my kid brother. So you see what that ended up being. That's been such an important thing for me being involved with guys. It isn't just Aaron."
Once his football career was over, Arrington created a startup company called Leap Management to further develop his guidance program for budding professional athletes.
Maybin maintained contact with Arrington through high school and eventually enrolled at Penn State, where Arrington was a two-time first team All-American.
"I didn't steer him to Penn State directly," said Arrington. "His father is actually a Penn State alum. I was excited about it. He looked impressive in his uniform and I always liked the way he played the game. I was looking forward to him playing (there) a little bit more, but he's saved his body for being able to do what he needs to do (in Buffalo)."
And now is when Arrington's influence really becomes important. He too was a first-round pick, taken second overall in the 2000 draft. He knows the expectations, pressures and responsibilities that come with being a player that's viewed as a difference maker.
"I feel like it's my life's calling to be a part of these guys' lives to help educate them on this whole situation and make sure they can take and make these experiences the best they possibly can," said Arrington. "There are three components, you've got the players, the media and the fans and if you understand all three you're giving yourself an opportunity to have a great career.
"I don't want the guys that I help to be halfway through their career and saying if I had known this coming in I'd have had a much better career. I think that's the biggest reason why this is such a good thing."
Maybin, who has also been mentored by Merriman and was recruited by the University of Maryland, believes it will serve as only a benefit to him to be in contact with men who have played the game, know the demands and know the pitfalls so he can do what's best to put himself on the fast track to success with the Bills.
"The maturity of his advice has been geared toward just continuing to be yourself," said Maybin of Arrington. "So far in my career there have been a few traits that I possess that have helped to carry me to each new level that I've ascended to in this game. My main focus now is just to try to remain the same person that I've been that helped me get to this point, keep working hard and help this team win football games."
Arrington, however, is confident that Maybin will take the proper steps to ensure his success, and if he needs to offer a timely word or two he will provide it.
"Aaron knows what to do and has a great family unit," Arrington said. "Sometimes it just takes some reinforcement and encouragement."
Maybin already recognizes how players like Arrington, Lewis, Merriman and Buffalo's Paul Posluszny have helped further his football career. And he admits it will be comforting to know they'll continue to be there if he needs them.
"There have been so many people that have really helped me to get to this point right now," Maybin said. "I'd be remiss in trying to say everybody. They've all deposited certain things in me by talking to me and things they may have shown me and discussions we may have had. They've really gone a long way in shaping me into the player I am today."