Lorenzo Mauldin IV has been a menace to CFL quarterbacks this season.
The Ottawa Redblacks defensive lineman has amassed a CFL-high/club-record 14 sacks. He also leads the league in multi-sack games with five.
The six-foot-four, 259-pound Mauldin had a combined four sacks in 17 games over his first two CFL seasons (2019, 2021) with the Hamilton Tiger-Cats. He signed with Ottawa as a free agent last February.
But Mauldin, 30, has a very simple explanation for his emergence as one of the CFL's top pass rushers.
"I think it's being a starter and being on the field more," Mauldin said. "But the majority of it is basically just getting the reps and being able to play fast and not think.
"When you think, you play slow."
Mauldin has also registered 36 tackles and a forced fumble. The former Louisville Cardinal added 13 tackles, 12 special-teams tackles and a forced fumble with Hamilton.
But it was more than enough to catch the eye of Ottawa GM Shawn Burke, who spent 15 seasons in Hamilton's front office before assuming his current post last December.
"Coach Benevides (Ottawa defensive coordinator Mike Benevides) has his scheme ... I've just become a piece in it," Mauldin said. "I think they see how versatile I am when it comes to playing up and down the line of scrimmage.
"Here, I'm considered a bigger defensive end so they kind of move me inside and outside ... there are different things they do with me that I feel I'm able to do in this system."
Mauldin anchors an Ottawa pass rush that's tied for third in CFL sacks (37) behind Calgary (44) and Saskatchewan (38).
"My plan wasn't to become the sacks leader or THE guy," Mauldin said. "My goal was to come here and play and do what I do on a regular basis.
"I wanted to be one of the guys and show as a starter I can make more plays."
Mauldin began his pro football career with the New York Jets, who selected him in the third round, No. 82 overall, in the '15 NFL draft. Over three seasons (2015-17), Mauldin had 33 tackles, 6.5 sacks, a fumble recovery and interception before being released Sept. 1, 2018.
"The thing about Lo is he's a really humble and family-oriented guy," said Kenny Kim of Summit Athletes, Mauldin's agent. "When he gets on the field, though, he turns it on.
"What he's done has come from a lot of hard work."
But Mauldin's best season as a pro has been a challenging one for Ottawa (3-11), which has lost three straight to stand fourth in the East Division. On Sunday, the Redblacks fired head coach Paul LaPolice, with special-teams coordinator Bob Dyce serving as interim head coach.
"That was definitely difficult because at the end of the day we're all human, we all go back to our families when we're done with football and each other,' Mauldin said. "I've been released by a team, I know that feeling.
"We definitely have to take blame as players because at the end of the day we're the ones out there."
But Mauldin, a married father of a young daughter, knows all about dealing with and overcoming adversity, He spent most of his childhood with various foster parents as both of his parents were in jail.
Despite its record, Ottawa remains in playoff contention, if only slightly.
A Saskatchewan Roughriders win over the Hamilton Tiger-Cats on Friday night and Montreal victory over Ottawa on Monday would eliminate the Redblacks from post-season consideration.
Still, Ottawa does finish up facing East Division rivals Montreal and Hamilton twice each.
"Our record is what it is, all we can do is continue to fight," Mauldin said. "If we can get three out of those four, things could really turn for us."
If he could, Mauldin would gladly trade some of his sacks for victories.
"Oh, definitely," he said. "It's all good and well to have individual statistics but this is a team sport.
"If I could give up three sacks for three wins I'd definitely do that."
And while the CFL sacks title would be a nice milestone, Mauldin said he's not consumed by it.
"I've already pushed myself further than I thought I could," he said. "We have four more games and I'm ready to take them on like I take on every game.
"I'm going to go ahead and play my game and if I don't get another sack, I'm proud of myself for getting 14. It just feels good."
This report by The Canadian Press was first published Oct. 4, 2022.