Only 75 miles separate Toledo and Kenton, Ohio.
That makes No. 24 Missouri’s 11 a.m. kickoff Saturday at the Glass Bowl in Toledo a homecoming of sorts for sophomore quarterback and Kenton High School graduate Maty Mauk, who smashed national high school records during his prep days with the Wildcats.
The legend of Mauk’s high school career belies his 6-foot frame. He was a giant of Ohio high school football before arriving at Missouri in 2012.
Mauk was Mr. Ohio Football in 2011, a Parade All-American and a two-time Ohio Gatorade football player of the year. He set national high school passing records with 18,932 yards, 219 touchdowns and 1,353 completions, as well as 22,681 yards of total offense.
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It would be forgivable if Mauk felt anxious or overly excited at the prospect of returning to his old stomping ground, but the consensus is that he won’t be fazed by the setting or circumstances.
“I’d like to think that he would just go play football, because that’s ultimately what you have to do,” Tigers coach Gary Pinkel said. “Like when he played against Florida or he played against South Carolina last year or finished the game against Georgia. You’ve got to play football. … I would be disappointed if he was not focused and ready to go, and he will be.”
This isn’t, after all, a vacation for Mauk and Missouri.
“It’s always going to be my home,” said Mauk, who completed 13 of 21 passes for 178 yards with three touchdowns in a season-opening 38-18 win last week against South Dakota State. “There’s no place else I’m going to call home. Whenever I get free time, they know I’m going to be back. But right now it’s a business trip, and I’ve got to go play.”
Mauk estimates that several hundred friends and family members will make the hour-and-15-minute trek up Interstate 75 to the shores of Lake Erie for the game.
“It will be fun for him, and he’ll be excited about playing (at Toledo), but he’d be excited regardless of who they’re playing or where they’re playing at,” Mauk’s father, Mike, said. “He has great friends there and great relationships there, but I don’t think he misses (Ohio). I think he’s happy where he’s at, what he’s doing and who he’s with.”
In other words, don’t expect a wistful Mauk to let emotion cloud his preparation. It’s not in his nature.
“He’d be a good poker player,” Pinkel said. “Maty’s really not like that. He’s pretty even-keeled all the time. Whether he throws a touchdown pass or has a bad play, when he comes off the field, he doesn’t look a whole lot different.”
Against Toledo, Mauk doesn’t have the luxury of distraction anyway, not against a Rockets team that returns 19 starters in only the second true road start of his college career, and not as the leader of a passing game still seeking consistency and rhythm.
“I’m not worried about it,” Mauk said. “I know people are going to be there, and people are going to say stuff that maybe we might not want to hear. I know a lot of people probably don’t like me the best from playing each other in high school, but I know what I’ve got to do. I’m going to block all that out and be ready to go.”
Missouri, of course, is counting on Mauk. He’s widely viewed as the key figure if the Tigers are going to come close to duplicating last season’s success.
“Fortunately, it’s not just him going there,” Mike Mauk said. “He’s going with guys that have worked pretty hard preparing for the season. The team in general will be ready to play along with him.”