By: Ken LaVicka
RUSSELL ATHLETICS BOWL
Having a bad day? Need a pick me up? Find a way to have a conversation with Virginia Tech sophomore defensive tackle Luther Maddy.
A self-described “optimist”, Maddy finds a way to put a positive spin on most everything.
“That's how my parents raised me. Just try to feel good about things, even if it's tough,” says Maddy.
Maddy played high school football at Atlantic in Delray Beach, a highly-touted prospect who racked up 78 tackles and 13 sacks in his senior season. Despite his productivity, Maddy was hardly touched by schools in the BCS AQ conferences. He waited it out, kept his chin up, and finally Virginia Tech came calling, quickly earning a commitment from Maddy despite the prospect of a much different life outside of South Florida.
In typical Maddy fashion, he's able to find the bright spots in sometimes tame Blacksburg, Virginia.
“It's different from Florida,” explains Maddy. “It's not as loud, you can do more because it's not as crowded. I like it.”
In fact, Maddy is so comfortable with his collegiate surrounds that he says he didn't even start missing home until coming back down to play the University of Miami this past season, the 21st game of his VT career.
“Yeah, I was a little homesick,” admits Maddy, quickly adding: “But I'm good now.”
It's a good thing Maddy is able to stay so cheery. At 6'1”, 288 lbs., he's a mass of a young man that would be difficult to handle if made angry. ACC offensive lineman can vouch for that.
Maddy has already made 15 starts in his first 25 games, and registered almost 100 more plays on defense in 2012 than he did his freshman year. Maddy increased his tackle total by nine (28) this past season, and racked up three more sacks (4) than in his debut campaign. He produced two quarterback hurries in a must-win season finale against Virginia, a victory that propelled the Hokies to 6 wins and a berth in Friday's Russell Athletic Bowl from Orlando. It was a satisfying way to silence some of the negativity coming from a fan base used to winning with ease.
“You know, this season, it was tough at times,” admits Maddy.
Maddy won't dwell on that, though. He immediately turns on the positivity.
“We were able to keep our heads up. We just kept it rolling along.”
It's that uplifting attitude that helped Maddy perform what may end up being the toughest job he'll face at Virginia Tech.
Being a rock for beleagured teammate Dadi Nicholas.
Maddy and Nicholas have a strong connection. They're both from Delray, they both starred at Atlantic, they both made the decision to play for the Hokies, they both play along the defensive line, and they're roommates. Over the summer, Maddy watched as the young man that he calls his “brother” nearly had his future ripped away.
Nicholas was arrested in late June on 2nd degree felony grand larceny charges stemming from the theft of a bicycle back in May. Nicholas was immediately suspended from the football team and the school even deleted his name from the Hokies roster. The static around Nicholas was heavy, especially with such uncertainty about his status. That's where Maddy took over.
“People around campus would ask me what was going on with Dadi, how he was doing. It was just all a big distraction for Dadi,” recalls Maddy.
“I just tried my best to avoid the questions, especially with me not really knowing what was going to happen to him.”
While Maddy deflected attention from his friend in public, he also had to be a reassuring presence for Nicholas at home.
“I just tried to help him lay low. I just needed to be there for him because he was stressing a little bit.”
Was Maddy a “protector” of Nicholas?
“That's EXACTLY how I felt,” responds Maddy.
Maddy's upbeat personality kept Nicholas going, and right before the start of the season, the good vibes and patience paid off.
After it was found that Nicholas was only an accomplice to the crime, not the prime suspect, and the felony charge was reduced to a misdemeanor, Nicholas was reinstated to the team on August 30th. It was a major weight lifted off of not only Nicholas' shoulders, but Maddy's as well.
“I was excited for him. He went through a lot and we came through it.”
For Maddy, Nicholas being able to continue his college dream was the first victory of the 2012 season. It will all culiminate Friday in central Florida when the Hokies take on Rutgers. Maddy and Nicholas will both get to play in front of family and friends making the three-hour trip to the Citrus Bowl.
Virginia Tech isn't BCS-bound like it was last year when it faced Michigan in the Sugar Bowl. Maddy could care less.
“I can't wait for this one,” beams Maddy.
Positive as usual.