Aug. 3, 2014; St. Joseph, MO; Chiefs linebacker Josh Mauga works on drills during training camp. Photo used with permission by Chiefs PR. Credit: KCChiefs.com.
ST. JOSEPH, Mo. – The phone didn’t ring often with offers during the offseason, but Josh Mauga wasn’t discouraged.
The former New York Jets inside linebacker continued training and rehabbing a back injury that landed him on season-ending injured reserve in 2013.
All the 6-1, 245-pound Mauga wanted was another shot.
And then the calls arrived, all expressing interest in the native of Fallon, Nev., before he chose the Chiefs on July 23.
“It was actually crazy because the day that the Chiefs called,” Mauga said, “other teams started calling in as well. It was real quiet at first, and then just one day it just all started happening. I’m just blessed to be here.”
Mauga, whom respected NFL personnel guru Gil Brandt labeled a “good player,” entered the league as an undrafted free agent out of Nevada in 2009 with the Jets.
He has appeared in 29 career games with one start, totaling 21 tackles (12 solo) and 40 special teams tackles. But Mauga also dealt with back-to-back season-ending injuries, the back injury in 2013 and a torn pectoral muscle in 2012.
Still, he showed enough for the Chiefs coaching staff.
“I’ve seen him before,” coach Andy Reid, “and he’s a good, solid football player. It looks like he’s in good shape, he’s running around well. Give him a little time here.”
The present may offer a glimpse of how the Chiefs feel about Mauga, who wasted little time in getting involved on defense at left inside linebacker.
He saw time with the first-team defense alongside right inside linebacker Derrick Johnson on the third day of training camp with starter Joe Mays resting a sore knee. And the Chiefs currently list Mauga second on the depth chart behind Mays and ahead of Nico Johnson, last year’s fourth-round pick.
“Josh is definitely a diamond in the rough,” defensive lineman Mike DeVito said. “This is a tough kid.”
DeVito would know as a former teammate with the Jets.
“He dealt with so many crazy injuries,” he said. “But in New York, I mean, every year shows up day in and day out, works hard.”
Aug. 15, 2011; Houston, TX, USA; New York Jets linebacker Josh Mauga (53) celebrates after a sack against the Houston Texans at Reliant Stadium. Credit: Brett Davis-USA TODAY Sports
Of course, DeVito isn’t the only familiar face for Mauga.
The 27-year-old linebacker reunites with defensive coordinator Bob Sutton, who coached Mauga in New York; former Nevada head coach and Chiefs consultant Chris Ault; and former college teammate and Chiefs linebacker James-Michael Johnson.
The addition of Mauga offers the Chiefs another experienced player in Sutton’s scheme.
DeVito took on the mentorship role last year as the Chiefs defense transitioned. But DeVito adds there’s a noticeable difference whenever Mauga takes repetitions and makes defensive calls.
“With linebackers and defensive line,” DeVito said, “you got to be in constant communication. It’s always great when you have a guy that knows the defense inside and out because now you know he’s putting us in the right places and making the right calls.”
Mauga said knowing two former teammates and two former coaches in Kansas City made his decision easy to sign with the Chiefs.
But he was especially excited to reunite with Sutton, his former linebackers coach with the Jets.
“The main thing is he just wanted to see me healthy,” Mauga said. “The last year I played with him, I got hurt as well. He was just happy that I was healthy, I was ready to go and he said if he gets the opportunity to coach me, he said I’m going to love it out here.”