COLUMBIA — When Maty Mauk was about to begin middle school, his mother asked if he wanted to start going by "Matt."
Gwyn Mauk tabbed her youngest child "Maty" when he was young, a playful name that represented the age gap between him and his siblings. He is six years younger than his sister, Eden, eight years younger than his brother, Ben, and 10 years younger than Jonathan, his oldest brother.
The future Missouri quarterback gave his mother a confused look and said, "My name is Maty. Why would I want to be called anything else?"
At the time, Gwyn Mauk was worried other children in their hometown of Kenton, Ohio, would pick on her son for the name. But Maty Mauk's brothers assured her that Maty was big enough to defend himself.
He's certainly big enough now — one of the biggest names on a football-crazed campus.
Mom will still pull out the "Matthew Richard" whenever he's teasing her and looking for attention. But when anyone else uses his birth name, Maty Mauk's eyes glaze over, and he tunes out the offender.
After retrieving water following an early-August practice, Mauk walked toward a group of reporters for his first interview of the 2014 preseason. A Missouri spokesman went against the grain and introduced the quarterback by the name on his birth certificate.
"It's Maty," Mauk said, clearly perturbed. "Don't call me Matthew."
Maturity and peer-pressure force many to discard nicknames or anything childish-sounding.
But what happens when that childish side is wonderfully evoked in a game like football?
"Child-like" really is the best way to describe Maty Mauk's style of play. He forgot to fasten his chinstrap on his first meaningful play, a first down draw last season at Georgia, in relief of injured starter James Franklin.
He scrambles effortlessly around both sides of the pocket, ball cocked and ready for release with a flick of his right hand.
The first touchdown play he was a part of was something out of a video game: a double pass that had Mauk throwing to receiver Bud Sasser, who then hurled the ball into the end zone to L'Damian Washington.
In four starts replacing Franklin, Mauk's legend grew. Throughout Memorial Stadium, the fans chanted: "Ma-ty, Ma-ty."
Maty Mauk's name stuck at Missouri.
A wild child
The Mauks quickly realized they were raising a wild child.
They feared they couldn’t leave their ornery, energetic son alone. They barricaded him in his seat at restaurants to prevent him from wandering to the restrooms and kitchens. He caused a ruckus when his parents left him with babysitters.
His father and high school coach, Mike Mauk, built Kenton into a football powerhouse that eventually featured his youngest son and a handful of broken offensive records. But before Maty Mauk was a quarterback, he was a boy whom Mike Mauk, also a teacher and athletic director, brought to meetings with boosters and businesses. In these tag-along sessions, Maty Mauk brought along a book bag filled with writing utensils and stuffed it with every pamphlet he could find in the offices.
"I've got to get my work done, dad," he'd reason.
One day, Maty Mauk watched his grandfather put a doorknob back in its screw hole. The youngest Mauk then went around the house and took all the knobs off the doors, curiously scanning through the holes like he would later scan opposing defenses in his father's spread offense.
Mauk holds the national high school passing record for completions, pass attempts, passing yards, total yards and passing touchdowns. All but the touchdown mark were previously held by his brother, Ben Mauk, who set them at Kenton between 2001-2003. His older brother started at Wake Forest and Cincinnati, and later coached Maty Mauk with his father at Kenton. He now serves as an assistant to Mike Mauk at Glendale High School in Springfield, a move the Mauks made to be closer to Columbia. Their daughter, Eden Mauk Cruz, also lives 12 minutes away with her husband and children.
"It's gonna benefit me a lot," Maty Mauk said of his family's move to Springfield. "Obviously they can make it to every game. My parents made it to every game last year, and now Ben can make that trip, too."
The redshirt sophomore still misses his life in Ohio, though.
He misses going to the Kenton Theater 3 to watch movies with his basketball teammates. He misses playing his old drum kit, although his mom will tell you she doesn't miss it one bit.
Mauk also misses hunting with his assistant coach, Chuck Moore. Moore, a man Mike Mauk describes as "Grizzly Adams," is now defensive coordinator at Kenton. He taught the youngest Mauk how to hunt rabbit, squirrel, raccoon and deer. Now, Maty Mauk is trying to pass on what he's learned about the outdoors to his Missouri teammates.
"He's got duck calls and raccoon calls and any kind of call that you can think," Tigers center Evan Boehm said. "He's got them all in his car. Sometimes we drive around downtown and in Greektown doing the duck calls."
It's somewhat surprising that the starting quarterback is even allowed to have a vehicle.
When he was 2 years old, Maty Mauk was in the back seat of his dad's car when Mike Mauk parked and dropped off a package in their neighborhood.
"I said, 'Stay right there; I'll be back,'" Mike Mauk said.
Within seconds, his son put the car in gear and spun out into the street. The car went down a hill and into a neighbor's yard. The toddler was fine, but the wrecked car had to be towed.
"You know, I still am amazed he made it through high school," Gwyn Mauk said. "Because he's the kid that just said, 'Well, the speedometer says 120, so it's gotta go that. Let's see.'"
Maty Mauk's most notable motor vehicle incident came in 2012, his first full month of camp at Missouri.
He was riding his scooter late at night with two female passengers around campus. The scooter made contact with two vehicles. Mauk later turned himself in to MU Police for misdemeanor charges.
"He kind of grew up fast after that freshman year in college and realized he kind of had to tamper down a bit and think everything he does through," his mom said.
While he hasn't slowed down on the football field — the dual-threat quarterback said he got faster over the summer — Maty Mauk is taking his time to connect with his teammates.
He is now the face of Missouri football, a charismatic leader whom teammates rave about as much for his approachability as his lightning-quick release. During fall camp, Mauk went door-to-door in the players' dorms to chat with his teammates.
At every door, they called him "Maty."
Supervising editor is Mark Selig.