Marcus Maye was the No. 5 rated safety in the country and the No. 13 player in the state of Florida by Rivals.com, coming out of Holy Trinity Episcopal School. The Melbourne, Florida native competed in the Under Armour All-America game and recorded four interceptions and 45 tackles as a senior in high school.
With offers from top programs around the country, Maye chose Florida over the likes of Alabama, Auburn, Florida State, and LSU. Unlike many recruits today, Maye completely closed his recruiting process once he committed and did not take visits to any other schools. He has been all-in for the Florida Gators ever since.
Maye’s career at Florida followed a different script than many thought it would, as he redshirted his first season and lost a starting position after just two games in his redshirt freshman season. Though it didn’t start exactly the way he had pictured it; his career has turned out to be something special.
After losing his starting job as a redshirt freshman, Maye persevered through the rest of the season and made appearances in every game. He had 16 tackles on the year and one interception against Tennessee, which he returned 30 yards.
He earned a regular starting spot back in his redshirt sophomore season, as he started in nine games for the Gators. His broad skillset gave him the ability to play multiple positions, and with all of Florida’s injuries at the time, he was asked to do just that. Maye was selfless and took on the role of playing a little bit of everything. He played safety, corner back, nickel, and even a little bit at linebacker for the Gators. He led Florida’s defensive backs with 62 tackles in 2014.
While Maye had a good redshirt sophomore season, he still hadn’t played up to his full potential yet. His true breakout season came as a redshirt junior in 2015. He increased his tackles again to 82 and racked up two interceptions. Maye forced five fumbles on the year, which was the second-most in the country. Those numbers put him in a great position and led to him being named a First Team All-American by USA Today and Pro Football Focus as well as First Team All-SEC by Pro Football Focus and GridIron Now.
His breakout season didn’t only earn him accolades, it also increased his draft stock and drew attention from NFL scouts. Maye was faced with a tough decision. He could leave for the NFL, or he could stay another year and try to increase his draft stock even more. Staying would also open up risk of getting injured or even tacking a step backwards and losing draft stock.
There were a lot of things for Maye to consider before making a final decision. After discussing his options long and hard with his family, he could not bring himself to the decision of leaving Florida. Not yet. There was still business to be taken care of.
Maye couldn’t see his college career ending on such a sour note with the way the Gators finished the season against Michigan. Besides that, he wanted to prove that he wasn’t just a one hit wonder in the 2015 season.
He is certainly on pace to have another great season, with 49 total tackles, a team-leading 28 solo tackles, an interception and a sack so far. Maye quietly recorded a career-high 11 tackles in Florida’s loss to Arkansas last week, which was a game that the defense struggled in as a whole.
The Gators would have struggled to find someone to replace Maye’s production at safety had he not returned for his final season. Not only has he been an outstanding player, he has been one of Florida’s biggest leaders on defense the last two years.
He will lead the Gators’ defense one last time at home on Saturday. It is a moment he has been waiting on for quite some time now, but one he wants to cherish while it lasts. “It’s a bittersweet moment,” said Maye. “It’s been a long journey, but it’s here now so I’ve just gotta embrace it.”
Maye reminisced back to senior days as an underclassmen and said he just wanted to get a win for those guys to be able to go out with a bang. Now, it is his turn. “It was something that I wanted to send the seniors out with a victory,” he said. “But just, being a senior now, I wanna go out with a victory.”