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Rey Maualuga ( 1987 - )  Category ( Athletes ) [suggest a correction]

Rey MaualugaThe sport of football was made for people like Rey Maualuga.

In an earlier time, Maualuga would have been a Polynesian warrior with a spear. Now that spearing rivals is frowned upon by modern law enforcement, however, the weapon he uses is his 6-1, 249-pound body.

Rey Maualuga is a football player, and a good one. He goes into battle with his huge mound of Polynesian hair spilling out of his helmet (much like Troy Polamalu of the Pittsburgh Steelers, another Polynesian icon), his muscular arms and legs covered with elaborate warrior tattoos.

A star at the University of Southern California, where he was twice All-Pac 10 and an All-American as a senior, Maualuga was chosen in the second round of last spring's NFL draft by the Cincinnati Bengals. For a player with his pride and accomplishments, "second round" was the equivalent to a curse word.

"It wasn't a good feeling," he said.

Maualuga was weighed down by perceptions that he was weak in pass coverage and still immature emotionally. Together, those criticisms kept him from the major first-round money.

When Maualuga started practice with the Bengals, then, his first play reflected the frustration that he unleashed, a solid hit on Cincinnati running back Brian Leonard that threw Leonard backward.

Born in Oklahoma, where his father, Tolatau Maualuga, was stationed with the U.S. Army, Maualuga began playing football as a high school sophomore in Venice, CA. He did it, he later said, because that's what the popular kids did.

Most of his high school career came several hundred miles to the north in Eureka, CA, however, where his team lost only two games during his junior and senior years.

As a freshman at USC, Maualuga played enough -- and well enough -- to be placed on the Freshman All-America team. He also became involved in an alcohol-fueled fight on Halloween night, which led to him being charged with misdemeanor battery. It was from that incident that the "immaturity" reputation sprang.

"You learn that you're only given a number of chances," said Maualuga, who underwent alcohol and anger counseling in the wake of the incident.

Two months later, he found himself struggling with the death of his father, who succumbed to cancer shortly before the Trojans played in the national championship game following the 2005 season. He still paints his father's name under his eyes on game days.

As a senior, Maualuga combined with Clay Matthews III and Brian Cushing to form arguably the best trio of linebackers in the country.

"I want to become the player that the offense fears," Maualuga said as a freshman.

By the time he reached his senior season, he had succeeded.

Maualuga most recently made news by being selected for a season of "Dancing with the Stars," paired with Erin Andrews.

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