HOOVER, Ala. — The Mauks would often drive through the night from their home in northwest Ohio, after Mike had finished coaching Kenton High School’s football team, to get to Columbia, Mo., or another campus in SEC land.
Those journeys will get much shorter this fall.
Mauk, who will soon be enshrined in the Ohio Football Coaches Hall of Fame, took over at Glendale High School in Springfield, Mo., after 31 years in Kenton.
It puts them much closer — 168 miles, to be exact — to their son Maty, now Missouri’s starting quarterback a year after he saw time as a fill-in for injured James Franklin, a run that kept the Tigers headed toward a surprising SEC East title.
"Two hours, that’s a lot better," Mauk said Wednesday at SEC Media Days. "It’s nice to have your parents close."
It’s family that’s truly at the root of the redshirt sophomore Tiger’s game.
His father coached him at Kenton, where Maty surpassed the national passing yardage record that was held by his brother, Ben. The older sibling even had a hand in that record-breaking moment, calling plays for Maty as Kenton’s offensive coordinator.
Three years later, not much has changed. When the Mauk brothers get together, "all we do is talk football," Maty said.
Maty Mauk never attended a throwing camp, never worked with a quarterbacks guru. The only coaching he needed was at his disposal whenever he needed it in the forms of his father and Ben, who is seven years his elder.
Maty watched from the sideline while Ben was setting 14 national records and leading the Wildcats to two Ohio Division IV state championships. He was a middle schooler during Ben’s college career, which began at Wake Forest, where he suffered a fractured humerus, a dislocated shoulder and a torn labrum in the 2006 season opener, and finally at Cincinnati in ’07 after a transfer following reconstructive surgery.
"He wants to get me on film and to have somebody in your family that you can understand … people can call up coaches and do all that, pay money to do it," Maty said. "I have a brother who’s done it and he’s gotten me to where I am now."
Wednesday, that was sitting in front of the collective media, where Mauk wore a Tigers yellow bow tie and fiddled with a massive SEC East championship ring on his right ring finger.
"This is an experience to remember," Mauk said when asked about his appearance at the conference’s summer kickoff, where he’s one of only three sophomores. "Not everybody gets to do this and I’m going to have fun, and whatever you guys want I’m going to answer."
That included opening up on that neckwear. He divulged that he saw someone wearing one at his former teammate Franklin’s wedding weeks ago and, told his mom, "I want to get a bow tie, because I’ve never done it."
It was a fashion statement — even on a stage where bow ties are a typical sight — from a player who doesn’t lack for confidence. He compared his game to that of Heisman winner Johnny Manziel, saying he studies film of the former Texas A&M star and "I feel like I have the ability to do similar things, and that’s what people are expecting of me back in Columbia."
It’s a self-assuredness the Tigers will likely need if they have hopes of defending that division crown.
Missouri is without 167 of its receptions from a year ago with the departures of L’Damian Washington, Marcus Lucas and Dorial Green-Beckham, the former top-ranked recruit who was kicked off the team in April and has since landed at Oklahoma. Add in losing Henry Josey, a 1,000-yard rusher last season, and in all, the Tigers are down 3,827 of their 6,870 yards (55 percent) from 2013.
"We lost quite a few receivers, good ones," said coach Gary Pinkel. "We got Darius White (seven receptions) coming back, and Bud Sasser (26 catches) coming back, Jimmie Hunt (22), three guys that caught a lot of footballs. So we’re very fortunate to have some guys back. Maty, with his leadership, has done a great job."
Mauk threw for 1,071 yards, 11 touchdowns and two interceptions and ran for 229 yards and a TD on 41 carries. He made four starts with Franklin out, leading the Tigers to wins against Florida, Tennessee and Kentucky, with the only loss coming in double overtime against South Carolina.
While he did hit on only 51 percent of his passes, Mauk averaged nearly 16 yards per completion and made a major impression on Pinkel, beginning with his first moments being thrust into the job.
When Franklin injured his shoulder in the fourth quarter at Georgia on Oct. 12, Mauk vividly remembers Josey coming up to him and saying, "Hey, just be you, kid."
Mauk attempted three passes, hitting on all of them, and helped keep the Tigers unbeaten. Two weeks later, that run, and a No. 5 ranking, fell apart against South Carolina (despite Mauk’s 249 yards and a touchdown) in double overtime. As the young QB walked off the field, Pinkel pulled him aside.
"I said to him, I said, ‘Great, great game,’" Pinkel recalled. "He just gave me a smile and said, ‘Thanks, coach.’"
Mauk now has the benefit of spending the offseason preparing to start, and has taken full advantage. He attended the Manning Passing Academy and picked the brains of Eli and Peyton Manning, picking up tips on footwork, getting the ball out and more.
"I went down there feeling good, but when I came back I really felt a difference," Mauk said. "I gained not just quarterback skills, but everything from huddle-breaking skills and leadership skills. This camp took me to the next level. I have already been working with some of the guys with some changes that I want to make this season. We even went over things last (Tuesday in 7-on-7 drills) and we looked great."
It’s impossible to think the Tigers offense won’t regress this season, despite having promise at receiver and two backs who ran for more than 600 yards each in Russell Hansbrough and Marcus Murphy. That is, unless Mauk can take a step toward something like the player whose game he models his own after.