Dealing with a lockout, an injury and a team that collapsed around him, Jeff Maddux never gave up.
The 2010 Central Michigan alumni has had a roller coaster journey in his professional football career. From the Detroit Lions to the Arena Football League, to playing on a back-to-back AFL champion team, Maddux has experienced it all.
“All I can do is work hard and hope for something to happen, but if not I’m okay with that,” he said, “I’ve played a lot of football.”
At CMU, Maddux played guard on the offensive line. He was a three-time Mid-American Conference champion, Motor City Bowl winner and a GMAC Bowl Winner when the team was ranked No. 25 in the nation.
After graduating, Maddux pursued his dream of playing in the National Football League. In a stroke of poor timing, the Monroe native graduated into the 2011 NFL lockout.
“We couldn’t report to camps or anything; no one could pick us up, so I entered the Arena Football League for a couple (of) months,” Maddux said. “I was on the Cleveland Gladiators until the lockout ended. I played six games and then I got picked up by Detroit.”
The lockout ended the night before NFL training camp was supposed to start. Maddux reported to Detroit to start training camp with the Lions.
In training camp, Maddux re-injured an ankle he had surgery on as a Chippewa. The ankle was rolled on by a defensive lineman at camp but did not require surgery.
The alum was released and took the fall off to regain his health. He was told the Lions would call him back when his injury healed.
The following spring, Maddux returned to the Gladiators in the Arena Football League. After his season in Cleveland, he had still had not heard back from the Lions organization. Instead, he moved to a neighboring AFL team, the Chicago Rush.
Maddux transitioned well to the more untraditional rules of arena football.
“It’s different (in the AFL) – a lot smaller and there’s a lot of great athletes,” Maddux said. “I play next to a starter from (University of) Nebraska and a starter from (University of) Texas. (AFL has) a lot of pass blocking for the most part but the game is a lot faster on the small field.”
The AFL field is the exact dimensions of a National Hockey League ice arena. The boards from the ice rink are heavily padded. A player is not considered out of bounds unless they are knocked into or over those padded barriers.
“The small field helps a lot with pass blocking, which we did a lot when I was up at Central. Ninety-five percent of the plays are passing,” Maddux said.
In the middle of Maddux’s 2013 season with the Rush, the team folded, but was able to finish its season.
“By the fifth week, we noticed something wasn’t right,” Maddux said. “Bills weren’t getting paid and we came home one day and all of our TV’s were shut off.”
In the AFL, housing and most meals are taken care of by the owners. The coaches broke the news to their players first.
“It’s a long season in arena, 18 games played without playoffs,” Maddux said. “It actually made us come together as a team because we’re all just playing for ourselves at that point. We ended up making playoffs.”
The Rush organization was taken over by the league after bills weren’t paid.
Members of Maddux’s team – as well as a second folding team, the Utah Blaze – were entered into a draft at the 2013 season’s conclusion.
“I was going out to visit my brothers in Cleveland and I got a call from one of my buddies,” Maddux said. “He was like ‘Hey you got picked up by Orlando?’ and I didn’t even know.
He declined a contract to play for the Orlando Predators, and was considering ending his football career when he received a call from the defending champion Arizona Rattlers.
Today, Maddux plays center for Arizona. He still keeps in contact with many of his college teammates.
“I keep in touch with Collin Miller, a lot of the guys. I was in (Dan) Lefevour’s wedding,” Maddux said. “My quarterback out here is one of coach Enos’ old quarterbacks from Cincinnati. I was messing around with coach the other day. messaging him pictures. I love coach Enos – such a good guy.”
Jeff Maddux lives in Phoenix pursuing his football dream of eventually making it back to the NFL. In the meantime, he works hard and is content with making it on a great team in the second biggest football league in the United States.