(Ben Mauk photo courtesy of The News Record)
Let there be no mistake, former UC quarterback Ben Mauk can still run a spread offense with the best of them as he demonstrated recently in the Cincinnati Commandos 54-40 win over Wisconsin in the CIFL (Continental Indoor Football League) title game. Mauk was 18-29 passing for 195 yards and four touchdowns. Considering they played on a 60-yard field at Cincinnati Gardens, those are pretty lofty numbers and Mauk was named the game MVP.
"I don't understand why he's at this level," admitted Commandos coach Billy Back. "We're lucky to have him. Ben could be the next Drew Brees in my opinion. Ben sees stuff, he takes advantage of it, he doesn't force things. There's no reason for Ben to be in the CIFL. NFL, CFL, lowest league Ben should be in is the Arena League."
As for Mauk, he's just looking for a shot to be the next Kurt Warner. If not, he'll settle for a Social Studies class and coaching position under the "Friday Night Lights" of high school football.
"We'll see what doors open," said Mauk. "Hopefully, some NFL team will ask me to come to camp or be a practice squad guy. If nothing happens with that I'm going to teach and coach here in the Cincinnati area."
Back claims the Browns, Bills and Saints have showed some interest in Mauk. The fact that New Orleans won a Super Bowl with a guy of similar stature doesn't hurt the case for Mauk.
"They've got Drew Brees and they've got Chase Daniel who's not very tall either," observed Mauk. "They like those shorter quarterbacks who are from the spread offense that get rid of the ball quick. That would be ideal for me if a spot opened up down there."
"If it wasn't for Ben's injury, he wouldn't be with us right now," added Coach Back. "He wouldn't know my name and I wouldn't know him as well as I do. Things happen for the reason and hopefully he gets that opportunity to take the next step. I know a couple of teams are looking at him--we sent film to them. All he needs is a shot and people are afraid to do that for him."
The height and injury issue seem to plague Mauk, even though he's identical in size to Brees of the Saints and his protoge at UC, Zach Collaros. Despite having enough metal in his body to probably set off the detectors at CVG, Mauk still can find the receiver and/or create a play to find one.
"During the heat of the game, we can get our tempo going and just call the plays from the field," said Back. "His IQ is so great, it's like, 'I saw this, let's call this!'"
Usually, it worked as the Commandos only loss came in a game that Mauk sat out at the end of the regular season (former UC WR Dominick Goodman was under center as he was in his Colerain days). Goodman has since left the US to play in Germany, but while he was a Commando, he put up big numbers with his old co-hort flinging the football.
"With Goodman, it wasn't fair to the other opponents because we had that connection from UC and we kind of carried it over here to the Commandos," said Mauk.
Mauk's signing with the Commandos almost didn't happen. Multiple Bearcats on the team was the clincher.
"That's one of the reasons why I decided to play," said Mauk. "At first, I said no. Then, I looked at the roster with all of the UC guys playing and to play in a city where they love a champion, there's nothing greater than that."
So, about two and a half years after his last collegiate game, Mauk decided to suit up again.
"I went up to Canada after I didn't get my sixth year and didn't like it so I came back and worked at UC," said Mauk. "Just from throwing at practices, I realized, 'Hey, I could probably still play,'. I went home, started working out and training and my arm felt good and this opportunity came up. Hopefully, this will be a stepping stone to get to a higher level."
If not, Mauk is looking for full-time work. Currently, he's a part-time coach at Western Brown, but he'd like a full-time opportunity to coach and teach.
Someone will benefit either way.
Either a high school team is going to start turning heads with their spread thanks to Mauk's experience, or a pro team somewhere will get a pretty seasoned quarterback that puts some numbers on the toteboard in a hurry.
As for his boys at "The Nipp", Mauk predicts even more success.
"Anytime you've got Zach Collaros at the helm of your offense, you're in a good position," said Mauk. "I think they'll be fine as long as Zach's there. Coach Jones--I talked with him a few times, he knows what's going on--he's going to take UC to that next level."
As a player, a grad assistant and a person, Ben Mauk has fully embodied the "Represent the 'C'" philosophy that Butch Jones has established.