By MATTHEW STEVENS
College football players will routinely tell you they have trouble sleeping the night before a game because of the adrenaline and pressure of the spotlighted moment they could have the next day.
Brandon Maye stayed awake out of anxiety over worrying about his mother getting in her car after work late on Friday night and driving several hours on a lonely highway to see her son play the sport he loves.
"My mom used to run a very tight schedule,” Mississippi State’s newest linebacker said. “She's a (registered nurse) so on Friday nights she used to leave early after work and have to drive seven hours. The night before the game I couldn't sleep because I was thinking about my mom driving on the road by herself because her and my stepdad come down every game. This will take a big load off of her."
Maye can now sleep easier with his mother only having to travel from his hometown of Mobile, Ala., to the Starkville campus after transferring from Clemson and being eligible to compete for one of the three open starting linebacker spots for the upcoming 2011 season.
“My goal is to just help any way that I can," Maye said. "I'm not coming in as the big head guy that says 'I'm a three-year starter' or anything like that. I plan on coming in with my arms open and basically help the younger guys and do whatever I can do to help this team get to (the Southeastern Conference Championship Game in) Atlanta."
Maye arrived to the MSU program via a press release through a transfer rule situation that the SEC head coaches voted to not allow during the 2011 spring meetings in Destin, Fla. Previously a player who had graduated from an institution, which Maye accomplished with honors at Clemson with a degree in Sociology, could receive a waiver to be immediately eligible if his new program didn’t offer the graduate program he was being accepted into. Maye’s letter of acceptance into Mississippi State’s sports administrative program was the loophole Bulldogs head coach Dan Mullen was looking for and something the 235-pound middle linebacker says he’s seen as “the Brandon Maye” rule.
“I'm just excited to be a Bulldog and be able to go to work with the guys for a month now and be in the SEC playing ball,” Maye said when he spoke to reporters Tuesday.
Maye played in 35 games during his career, tallying 233 tackles and setting a Clemson single-season record with five forced fumbles in 2009.
When Maye went looking for another program to play for when he graduated from Clemson, he was immediately drawn to a head coach in Mullen that he agreed in terms of age and personality was incredibly similar to, Dabo Swinney, his coach with the Tigers.
“Both guys are young and fiery and got their head on right wanting to attack the community,” Maye said. “That is the things they stand for. I knew coach Mullen stood for those things because of all the national titles he’s been to and won.”
He was very familiar with the scheme that most recently designed by Tigers defensive coordinator Kevin Steele dialing up the defenses.
Steele is a man that sat across a University of Alabama meeting room from current MSU linebackers coach Geoff Collins so the philosophy is the same with the Bulldogs.
“It's an easy transition because I've told him all along if you are going to learn a new language then the person needs to know the language that you are speaking and I know the language he is coming from,” Collins said. “When we start getting to work together it will be a smooth transition.”
It’s Collins’ job in his first season at Mississippi State to account for the production left by the three starting linebackers that graduated from last year’s roster with two of them (K.J. Wright and Chris White) being taken in the 2011 National Football League Draft.
"The sign on the door in our meeting room says 'the best linebackers in the SEC meet here,'" Collins said. "That's the standard and the expectation. We had two guys get drafted into the NFL and played at a high level and I don't expect there to be an ounce of drop-off. I actually expect there to be a better product on the field this year. Everybody has a little chip on their shoulder to make sure that's possible."
The final piece of the puzzle in the linebacker depth chart will be the chemistry that Maye will be expected to have with his defensive teammates immediately in his final season of college football.
“They knew I was a three-year starter, so they were already looking up to some of the experience I brought to the table," Maye said. "It was fairly easy for me to jump in, be a leader, and go to work right off the bat."
For Maye that involved new clothes seeing as how he brought his orange Clemson gear with him to Starkville that he says was “immediately thrown in the trash can” and he showed up to meet with the media with a brand new maroon MSU shirt.
"My goal is not to only come and be a football player but to also be able to get out and give back to the community," Maye said. "I want to make sure Brandon Maye leaves a brand here. I don't want to be just a football player who came through and just played football for five months. I want to come through and actually make a difference."