Mauck brings maturity and quiet leadership to LSU

Updated: September 27, 2003, 11:49 AM ET

BATON ROUGE, La. -- His LSU teammates like to kid him about his age. They call Matt Mauck "Pawpaw" and "Pops" and ask how early his bed time is.

At the ripe old age of 24 the quarterback is the senior citizen of the squad.

"There are some guys on the team who were in sixth or seventh grade when I graduated from high school," said Mauck, who is six years older than most of LSU's true freshmen.

He's already tried professional baseball, he's been around. Now Mauck has settled down to going to class and playing football. And both are going well. Mauck is a pre-medicine major and LSU is No. 7.

"I'm having a great time," Mauck said. "This is what I used to dream about."

LSU coach Nick Saban recruited Mauck back when Saban was at Michigan State and Mauck was at Jasper High School in Indiana. He wasn't real surprised that Mauck opted for baseball instead. Mauck led his high school baseball team to a pair of state titles in 1996 and 1997, and was named Mr. Baseball in the state in 1997. He was also a good quarterback and helped the football team to a state runner-up finish in 1996, but it was easy to see his top priority.

Then things changed.

"I was playing for the Lansing Lugnuts, and I wasn't having any fun," Mauck remembered. "I decided it was time to think about getting my education and playing football."

The coach who wanted him as a high school player had changed schools, but had not changed his opinion of Mauck.

"Matt is probably as fine a person as you'd ever want to have on your team," Saban said. "He's a bright guy. He's an articulate guy. He gets along well with the other players. He's not aloof in any way. He has a lot of respect for his teammates, which is important when you're a leader."

Mauck isn't a rah-rah kind of guy, his teammates said. His attitude is definitely laid-back, quiet. But he is definitely the team leader.

"Matt has a way about him that makes everybody believe in him," said wide receiver Michael Clayton. "He's confident so everyone's confident. He's a great leader."

Mauck attracted attention in his first appearance with LSU. He came off the bench to replace an injured Rohan Davey in the 2001 Southeaste4rn Conference championship game and rushed for a pair of touchdowns in leading the Tigers to a 31-20 victory over No. 2-ranked Tennessee.

Last year Mauck opened the season as LSU's starting quarterback and guided the Tigers to a 5-1 record before tearing ligaments in his right foot. The injury ended his season and some feared it would end his career.

"I never thought that, but I wondered if it might limit my mobility," Mauck said. "But it's fine."

His hard work to overcome the injury was not overlooked by his teammates.

"He never said anything, he just kept working on getting back," said offensive lineman Rodney Reed. "When you saw the time and effort he put in you had to respect him. He's the same way in practice, the same in games."

Mauck still works on the rehabilitation, but it hasn't affected his play.

Mauck is 9-1 as a starter, winning nine straight after a loss in his opening game. Mauck has either rushed or passed for 21 of LSU's 40 touchdowns in the games he's played in.

"I'm beginning to feel comfortable," Mauck said. "I think that helps. It's like anything else, the more you do it, the better you get."

This story is from ESPN.com's automated news wire. Wire index