An injury cost him his job in New York.
An injury has now given him a second chance in Kansas City.
After spending the last two seasons on injured reserve, ex-Fallon and Nevada standout Josh Mauga will don the red and white this weekend. Not as a backup linebacker anxiously waiting on the sideline. Not as a contributor on special teams.
Mauga will make his second professional start as Kansas City opens with Tennessee on Sunday at Arrowhead Stadium.
“It has been a crazy year but I am very blessed to be in the position I am in right now,” said Mauga, who is starting for Joe Mays, who is out for six weeks with an injury. “Becoming a starter was not one of my main concerns early on. My main focus was to go out and prove to this team that I can make a difference and contribute anyway I can.”
It’s not the fabled rags-to-riches story that followed Kurt Warner when he went from bagging groceries to winning a Super Bowl with the Rams.
But it’s close.
Mauga’s family bought a home in Reno as his family continues to grow. He’s appeared on Fallon’s version of Dancing with the Stars. He volunteered his time this summer for the first annual Hometown Heroes event that united former Fallon greats and the community. He even helped a couple of old friends with a youth clinic in April.
Boy, have the times changed.
Mauga’s contract wasn’t renewed after the Jets failed to make the playoffs last season. He spent several months trying to get back to 100 percent after suffering back and pectoral injuries the last two years. After he was medically cleared to play again earlier this summer, several teams wanted to work out Mauga.
Only one team stood out to Mauga that would give him the best opportunity to get back onto the field. And the credit goes to several ex-Jets coaches who saw potential in the former Nevada linebacker. Defensive coordinator Bob Sutton and assistant linebackers coach Mark DeLeone coached Mauga in New York and now he has become what they envisioned, but in Kansas City.
“Both were coaches of mine who put in a word to get me here,” Mauga said. “These two were my linebacker coaches in New York and thought I could come in and contribute to this team.”
The only thing going through Mauga’s mind when Kansas City signed him was to stay healthy. But for a several weeks last month, a strained groin kept him off the field, although Mauga returned last week against Green Bay and was impressive enough to make the 53-man roster.
“The only thing on my mind going into training camp was to stay healthy and give myself a chance to be able to play football again,” Mauga said. “It has always been a goal of mine to become a starter in the NFL, though.”
Luckily for Mauga, his mindset’s been in the right place since arriving onto the NFL scene. By preparing for every game as if he were the starter, the nerves of starting for the Chiefs this weekend are not what one would expect.
“It doesn’t feel any different than if I was playing as a backup,” Mauga said. “And I think the reason for that is because whether I’m a backup or starter, I always prepare and work like I’m a starter. So now that I’m actually a starter, it feels natural like I’ve been doing it for awhile.”
Mauga can’t wait to get on the field and help Kansas City return to the postseason after an epic collapse against Indianapolis in last year’s AFC Wildcard round.
“This is a great team and I’m excited to be a part of it,” he said. “I’m looking forward to working with my new coaches and teammates and to help them get back to the playoffs and winning the Super Bowl.”
And it doesn’t hurt that his family and even the community of Fallon have been behind him since he blitzed the trenches as a member of the Greenwave.
“It means a lot not only to myself, but to my family as well,” said Mauga, whose Chiefs will visit the Bay Area twice this season. “They have been by my side through it all. It’s probably been more of a roller coaster for them because there was a lot going on with me and they only want to see me healthy and happy.”