After successful high school and college careers, all former Missouri receiver Jeremy Maclin had left to prove was being able to beat the professionals.
A teammate's injury and well-timed touchdowns helped solidify a starting role in the NFL with the Philadelphia Eagles, the team's offensive coordinator Marty Mornhinweg said.
“His size, strength and speed are his top three qualities,” Mornhinweg said. “On top of that are the natural instincts.”
After teammate Kevin Curtis needed arthroscopic surgery on his left knee, Maclin had the opportunity to start. Maclin made the most of his opportunity, scoring two touchdowns on 142 yards receiving in only his second start.
“You’re not going to find many negatives with Jeremy Maclin, because there aren’t,” Mornhinweg said.
In his first season with the Eagles, Maclin caught 55 passes for 762 yards and four touchdowns during the regular season*. Among rookies, he was second to only the Vikings’ Percy Harvin in receiving yards and catches last season.
Maclin found time Friday to answer questions by phone about his successful rookie season:
Q: How tough is it to get to know everyone and become acclimated with an NFL team as a rookie?
Maclin: I think it depends on what situation you come through. A lot of guys go into different situations, and luckily for me I went into a situation where the veterans helped me along the way. Mine was just having the patience, because obviously I came into one of the better teams, and I wanted to set out to get out there and play, so that’s what I did.
Q: What Eagles’ players did you become closest to?
Maclin: It’s kind of like college, you know. It’s kind of like you come close with the guys that you came in with. You have a lot of things in common and similar in a lot of ways, and they’re kind of going through some of the same stuff that you’re going through.
Q: Who would you say is the funniest player on the team?
Maclin: Probably (center and guard*) Nick Cole, because he’s a nut ball, he’s a nut case. Just constantly crackin’ jokes man, him and (guard) Max (Jean-Gilles). Two of the biggest guys on the team, two of the funniest dudes.
Q: What is the difference between catching a playoff touchdown and a regular season touchdown?
Maclin: I mean they both mean a lot, but to score in the playoffs is just huge, because you know that not very many people get to do that. So being one of those guys that gets to do that is pretty cool. It just felt great. You know it put us back in the game at 7-7. Obviously Vick made a great throw, but it felt really good.
Q: What is the biggest difference between college and professional football?
Maclin: I mean in college, every game counts, but in the NFL it’s even more. You don’t get to play any, as they say, “get-ready” games. Everybody on the different teams can play football. So it’s better playing. It’s also long. It really drains your body. You really got to train to keep your body in shape, to maintain it. Obviously I had the foot problem plantar fasciitis. That was really tough, because you know it’s one of those things that, it sounds like its real small, but not having your feet, and still having to play, I mean it affects your game a lot.
Q: Mornhinweg said that a big part of the season for you was getting the opportunity to play. How did you approach that opportunity?
Maclin: You approach it with open arms, and you approach it like you’re never going to get a spot out of it. That’s what I did, and that’s all you can do.
Q: What was your biggest challenge of the season?
Maclin: I guess that first game, when I wasn’t getting very much playing time, knowing that I was ready and knowing that I was able to play with the guys that were out there playing. Not being able to go out there and do it and only playing in a limited role, that’s been challenging because that’s something I wasn’t used to and something I really hadn’t been through in a long time.
Q: Who would you say is the best NFL defensive back you faced?
Maclin: I’m telling you right now, if they weren’t good, they wouldn’t be playing, but probably (Oakland Raiders cornerback) Nnamdi (Asomugha). He’s just good. I don’t know what makes him so great. He just plays his position very well. He doesn’t get beat a lot. Stayed where he needed to be at all times, plays the ball really well.
Q: Mornhinweg said that you and DeSean Jackson* are the two fastest players on the team. Who do you think is fastest?
Maclin: You know we’ve never raced. I think he has really, really good speed. Not many of us have ever raced, but I’m telling you right now, if there is a guy that could beat me on the Eagles it would be him. But not too many people can beat me running, so we’ll see.
Q: Mornhinweg said that what’s really difficult is managing to pick up an NFL offense. How did you manage to learn the Eagles' offense so quickly and effectively?
Maclin: You’ve got to be determined. You’ve got to want to learn it. You’ve got to want to play. Part of wanting to play is knowing everything that you have to do to play. I mean I wasn’t beating myself up about it. I’m a fast learner, I pick up things fairly easily. It was a little easier for me about the process than maybe some other people. It’s just something I pride myself on. You’ve got to play the game smart. The greatest players who ever played were smart guys you know.
Q: Now that you’re in the NFL and away from MU, what would you say you miss the most about Mizzou?
Maclin: I miss the friendships that I made with some of the guys on the team. You get to the NFL, and some of those guys are married, some of those guys have families of their own. So it’s a little different.
Q: Have you done anything exciting in the offseason?
Maclin: Not really. I hung out, spent some time at home. Home is very important. I mean obviously you get to see your family, and you don’t get to see your family every day. You know home is something that you definitely cherish when you get a chance to go home and spend time with your family, and that’s all I’ve been really trying to do.