ST. PETERSBURG — Marcus Maye lights up most fields he steps on — even the barely-lit ones.
On Friday, Maye, a Florida oral commit, and Melbourne Holy Trinity (2-0) dominated St. Petersburg Catholic (0-3), 35-6, on a run-down Northside Christian field more suitable as a dog park than a football field.
Maye, rated the No. 5 safety in the nation by Rivals.com, is used to this kind of low-key playing environment.
“It’s definitely like, ‘Wow,’ but I still gotta play to the best of my ability and do everything I have to do to get the job done,” he said of playing in obscure backyard pitches of grass across Florida’s tiny Class 3A landscape.
After going up against some of the nation’s best talent during the summer combine season, Maye has received plenty of hate mail regarding his choice to play at Holy Trinity rather than a larger Melbourne public school in a competitive class.
“I decided to go to the Holy Trinity School because it was a college preparatory school, and then football was just, you know, there,” he said. “I felt like I needed to get away from certain things and be around the right people to keep focused and maintain that right path. I definitely get (criticism) from all my friends who go to public school. …They say, ‘Oh, you play small ball,’ but I just take it and run with it. I feel like I dedicate myself hard enough to where I can be fulfilled and prove everybody wrong.”
Come fall 2012, though, the 6-foot-1, 195-pound Maye will have to transition from playing near local swamps to The Swamp.
Maye came to Gainesville for Florida’s Southeastern Conference opener against Tennessee, his second gameday experience. He said he’s ready to line up among those orange-and-blue jerseys in a few months.
“It’s not gonna be easy,” he said. “I’ve made a very big jump from (3)A football to SEC football, but I feel like I work hard and that’s why I can make that transition anywhere.”
Maye finished with 142 yards and three touchdowns Friday. On the other side of the ball, he recorded eight tackles.
After an explosive 40-yard interception return, Maye raised his hand and extended his arms, preparing to do the Gator Chomp in the end zone.
In this brief moment of celebration, one of Florida high school football’s most unassuming egos was called back to the 2-yard line for dropping the ball before crossing the goal line. A St. Pete Catholic defender recovered the fumble in the end zone for a touchback. So Maye lined up again, this time on defense, just to watch the opposing team take it 80 yards for its lone touchdown of the night. He expressed no reaction.
Humility is perhaps something public school wouldn’t have taught him.
Oral commitments are non-binding until a national letter of intent is signed on or after National Signing Day on Feb. 1, 2012.