A love for football that changed Maulet's life

In an area of New Orleans, removed from all the glitz and glamour of Bourbon Street and Mardi Gras revelers, is the Lower Ninth Ward.

It's an area that basically wasn't on the radar for anyone outside of the region until the Summer of 2005, when Hurricane Katrina ripped through Louisiana, leaving the Lower Ninth Ward under water and devastated after storm surges and leveebreaches wiped away what little many residents there had.

For Steelers safety Arthur Maulet, it was just another gut punch in a difficult life growing up in the Lower Ninth Ward.

"Tough neighborhood. Didn't have much," said a quiet Maulet. "I was the oldest of five, two brothers, two sisters. Just trying to survive. Welfare family. No mother. Mother on drugs. Dad not in my life. My grandfather took care of us when we were smaller.

"I was homeless for a point in time in my life. Sleeping on a church bus. Dropped out of school twice. A long road. Going through Hurricane Katrina. Dealing with that. Not knowing what was going to be my next move for a young kid."

Stop for a minute and think about all of that. Think about what he went through.

And then think about watching the news and everything you heard about Hurricane Katrina.

The devastation. The destruction. The complete loss of everything.

Then think about being a 12-year-old and losing the little that you did have.

That was Maulet's life.

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When Katrina hit, his younger siblings were evacuated out of New Orleans, but Maulet and his grandfather, Anthony Hicks, stayed behind with the assumption it would just be a passing issue. It was far from that.

For two weeks the two lived in the New Orleans Superdome, set up as a shelter for those who truly had nowhere else to go.

"That is when I hit a really rough patch in my life," recalled Maulet. "Honestly, it was a lot."

Maulet paused for a moment. His eyes clearly telling a story he wasn't sure he wanted his voice to echo.

But after a minute, he continued.

"I stayed with grandpa. My other brothers and sisters left," said Maulet. "Had to stay in the Superdome. Just seeing what everybody was going through there made me not worry about the obstacles that I go through now. I always say it's easy now.

"Living in the Superdome and just seeing thousands of cots everywhere. Some people dying there. Stuff falling from the ceiling killing people. Young females getting raped. People remember hearing it about things. It was bad. For me to be able to survive that and have an opportunity to do what I am doing now, I am forever grateful for that."

That survival took a while though. Realizing what little they had in New Orleans was gone, they moved to Ann Arbor, Michigan simply because it was a place where their church was able to fund a home for them to live in.

"My grandfather took us all there and really looked out for us," said Maulet. "He was a strong man. Very Army disciplined type of guy. Going to wake you up bright and early in the morning to shovel some snow. Going to make sure that, for me and my brothers and sisters, that things were taken care of. He was an independent contractor, so he had to go to work, sometimes five, six o'clock in the morning. He taught me how to get up in the morning and how to take care of a family, how to take care of my brothers and sisters and own up to being a young man early."

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It was a different atmosphere for Maulet living in Ann Arbor, a place he never envisioned he would land.

But it was life-changing for one reason.

It's where he fell in love with football.

"I definitely developed my love of football there," said Maulet. "I remember I used to ask why everyone wants to park in front of our house, why do they want to park in our yard. I would ask my grandpa that. He told me the University of Michigan is right down the street. We wound up getting tickets and going to a game at 'The Big House.'

"I just fell in love with football after that. From there, football was my goal, to play in college and make a way for my family."

It wasn't easy, though. The dream, like everything in Maulet's early life, was nothing but a challenge.

"I wound up moving back to New Orleans," said Maulet. "I was doing so much. Doing the wrong things. Not going to school. Being on the streets. Not doing what I was supposed to. So, my grandpa sent me to New Orleans for a little bit to live with my aunt. Still doing the wrong things. Still not doing what I needed to do."

It was when he moved back to New Orleans things finally took a turn for the better. Maulet went to Bonnabel High School in New Orleans, and his junior year he played football, the first time he ever played the sport. It was because of a man named Donald Cox, who at the time was the defensive backs coach at the school and saw what type of athlete he was. Cox took him under his wing, allowing him to stay at his home and be a part of his family.

Maulet enjoyed every moment playing football his junior year, but it was fleeting for him. His senior year he had already turned 19-years-old, and under the district rules, he couldn't play high school football any longer.

"Katrina had happened which set me back, so I was too old to play my senior year," said Maulet. "I didn't know what to do. I was pretty good. Didn't know what to do. Was lost again."

That is when Cox's influence truly came into play.

"He came up to me and told me we are going to get you in the GED program," said Maulet. "You are going to get your GED and then you are going to walk-on to a junior college. Me, I didn't know the significance of it but I kind of trusted him. Going through what I went through, I can read the difference between b.s. and a kind heart. It was coming from the heart. He didn't want anything from me. I decided I am going to do what I have to do to help my family and yours as well.

"And it paid off. Six months working my butt off in a 24-hour fitness gym. Going to the field, going to high school practices and watching people play and I can't play my senior year. That gave me motivation to keep working. I ended up getting my GED."

That was just the beginning. Maulet enrolled at Copiah-Lincoln Community College in Mississippi and went out for the football team as a walk-on. He ended up with five interceptions his sophomore season and had 20 passes defensed.

It was then he thought football might be his future.

"It just woke me up," said Maulet. "I thought I have a shot."

He transferred to the University of Memphis following his sophomore season, starting 21 of the 26 games he played in and finishing with 111 tackles, 22 passes defensed, 4.5 sacks, four interceptions, two forced fumbles and a fumble recovery.

Maulet's dream of making a career out of football took off when he was signed by the New Orleans Saints as an undrafted rookie free agent following the 2017 NFL Draft. He bounced around some, spending the 2018 season with the Saints and Indianapolis Colts, before signing with the New York Jets in 2019. He started 11 of the 23 games he played in during his two seasons with the Jets.

Maulet signed a one-year contract with the Steelers during the 2021 offseason, and this past offseason was re-signed to a two-year contract, giving him some of the stability he had been searching for.

It also was the next step in a sport that saved Maulet from a life that could be much different today.

"Growing up in the Lower Ninth Ward gave me the ability to look onto the next thing in life, just knowing that it can always be worse," said Maulet. "Just knowing the opportunities I have right now in my life are such a blessing because of what I have been through.

"A lot of people look at football as a game and they are grateful for it. It did save me. I don't know anything else. You hear my story now. I never had a regular job. Never worked for anyone. This is all I know. That's why I take it so seriously. I am so grateful for it, and I approach every day like it's my last because without this I have nothing.

"It's one of those things I get nervous sometimes thinking how many years do I have left, because what do I want to do after this. It's a scary feeling for me because I didn't do anything else.

"That is why I have the same mindset now that I had growing up. Being the oldest of five. Not having much. I still have the same mindset. I am very frugal. I don't need jewelry. I don't need a fancy car. I don't need an eight-bedroom house. Me and my brothers and sisters grew up in a one-bedroom house, because the living room was the second bedroom. Just being close knit, having a small house, being family oriented with my brothers and sisters, it was like shoot, I am going to save as much money as I can because it has to last a lifetime not only for my family, but my future family.

"I am smart about things because I know what it's like."

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