It’s hard to find a closer father-son bond than the one shared by Missouri junior quarterback Maty Mauk and his dad, Mike.
Whether it’s as father and son, quarterback and coach or simply buddies, the Mauks are exceptionally close, which made Mike’s cancer diagnosis last month a particularly harsh blow for Maty.
“It’s hard,” Maty admitted Wednesday during SEC Media Days. “At times, you’ll find yourself sitting in your room and just thinking about it, but if there’s anybody that can beat it, it’s him. Winning is something he knows how to do at a high level.
“I’m not too worried, because I know that he’s a guy that’s not going to give up. He’s going to do whatever he has to do to beat this and he’s got the support crew around him. … It’s in our blood to fight.”
Mike started treatment a few weeks ago for colorectal cancer.
As brave a face as Maty puts on it, there’s little doubt that it weighs on him, but he’s grateful for the support he’s received from his Tigers teammates, coaches and fans.
“He came and talked to me about right when all of this was going down,” Missouri coach Gary Pinkel said. “Obviously, it was pretty emotional for him. He and his dad are very, very close. So, we talked, and he keeps me informed. He’ll call me and tell me what’s going on.”
The genuine concern Pinkel and his staff, most of whom reached out to Maty the night he learned of the diagnosis, have shown buoyed Maty’s spirits.
“That just shows how our school is, how our program is and how with have each other’s backs,” Maty said. “And it’s not fake. It’s not fake at all. Coach Pinkel came in (Tuesday) and asked, ‘Hey, how’s Pops doing? Is there anything we can do?’ To have that support around you, that’s why I’m tremendously happy to be at Mizzou. There’s no place I’d rather be.”
Certainly, Mike has to take a measure in comfort, too.
The Mauk family moved from Kenton, Ohio, where Maty grew up, to Springfield, Mo., where Mike is the Glendale football coach, to be closer together.
The Mizzou community is rallying around both Maty and Mike, including offers to help make sure dad won’t miss any of his son’s games this fall if the treatment schedule allows for it.
“We’ve just got to continue to pray about it,” Maty said. “We know as a family, God’s going to do what he needs. … You’ve got to keep your faith at a high level … (so) just know that prayers are appreciated and we’re going to do whatever we have to do to fight it.”
Maty, who is 14-4 in the last two years as the Tigers’ starter, threw for 2,648 yards with 25 touchdowns — more scores than any quarterback in program history not named Chase Daniel — and 13 interceptions last season.
Everything he does in 2015 will be dedicated to Mike.
“This season’s going to be for him …,” Maty said. “This is a year where I want to do something that’s never been done. I don’t want to talk about it. I just want to go out there and do it. … We’re going to win as many football games as we can.”
Dealing with a parent’s illness obviously creates stress and the possibility of distraction, but those who know Maty best don’t fret his ability to transcend adversity.
“Maty’s a strong kid,” said senior center Evan Boehm, whose own father, Lee’s Summit West coach Royce, underwent another heart procedure July 2. “He got beat up a lot last year by the media, but every week he went out and competed as hard as he could without worrying about what’s going on behind him.”
Watching Maty play is bound to be a welcome respite and source of delight for Mike as his treatment progresses.
“You’d like to think (Maty’s) mature enough to handle it, but those things are very emotional,” Pinkel said. “I know his dad will be on his butt about making sure that he plays his best. We can laugh about that, but we know it’s true.”