It’s not uncommon to get into a conversation, perhaps even a debate, as to just what ‘sports’ is. It’s a form of exercise, for one thing. It’s a game. It’s certainly become an entertainment industry. It’s a livelihood not just for the athletes who play, but for those who are employed to help run the league in various capacities.
For some, it’s not just a living though. It’s a defining part of your life. Pittsburgh Steelers defensive back Arthur Maulet recently opened up about his background and the role football has played in his life, speaking exclusively to Teresa Varley for the team’s website.
“A lot of people look at football as a game and they are grateful for it”, he said. “It did save me. I don’t know anything else. You hear my story now. I never had a regular job. Never worked for anyone. This is all I know. That’s why I take it so seriously. I am so grateful for it, and I approach every day like it’s my last because without this I have nothing”.
And his story is quite something. He was the oldest of five siblings growing up with a single mother. He experienced homelessness, and was the subject of bad influences at times, making poor decisions on the streets, whether living in the New Orleans area or after his grandfather moved the family up to Ann Arbor, Michigan.
He retells a harrowing account of surviving Hurricane Katrina, spending time living in the Superdome, watching people die there—be killed there by falling debris from the roof of the damaged structure. Watching violence and rape.
And on top of that, it cost him a year of eligibility for football, so it left him watching practices from afar during his senior season. While he developed a love of a game living near the University of Michigan, it was the influence of high school defensive backs coach Donald Cox who persuaded him to pursue his dream through whatever means necessary, walking on at a community college in Mississippi before having the chance to transfer to Memphis a couple of years later.
The game has gotten him to where he is now—not that he hasn’t earned what he has received every step of the way. It’s why it all means so much to him. And it’s why he doesn’t want to think about the time when it comes to an end.
“It’s one of those things I get nervous sometimes thinking how many years do I have left, because what do I want to do after this? It’s a scary feeling for me because I didn’t do anything else”, he admitted. It’s much more than a game for him and his family.
There have been signs of that. Earlier this season, an ostensibly private blowout in front of his teammates was made public when he took issue with how it seemed to him others were not affected by the fact that they were just embarrassed on the field. Others tried to quiet him down, as reporters were in the area, but he couldn’t contain it.
It’s just too important to him. Football has been his way of life. As he said, it’s what he knows. It’s more even than just a passion. What would he do if he weren’t playing football? It helped get him off the streets, for one thing. It’s provided him with structure in his life.
And he’s not looking to part ways with the game any time soon, now six years into his career, and his second in Pittsburgh. He’s already under contract for 2023, so at least he doesn’t have to worry about where he will be playing next year. But he’ll be 30 years old next year, and he knows he has to make every season count.