BOZICH | Former Louisville star Marques Maybin has (finally) com - WDRB 41 Louisville News

BOZICH | Former Louisville star Marques Maybin has (finally) come out talking about his inspiring story

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Former Louisville basketball star Marques Maybin has become a "studio rat" in local sports talk radio. Former Louisville basketball star Marques Maybin has become a "studio rat" in local sports talk radio.

LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WDRB) -- After years of preferring not to talk, Marques Maybin has come out talking.

About Louisville basketball. Kentucky football. Recruiting. His son’s future as an NFL linebacker. Everything that gets sports fans howling and fussing.

“Can you believe it?” Maybin said.

In a word? No.

Paralyzed from the waist down and navigating a wheelchair for the last 13 years, Maybin never wanted anybody to write a “Woe is Me,” story about his life. There’s no reason for that. Marques Maybin, 37, has transformed this into a 'Wow is Me,' story.

“I would have never thought it in a thousand, thousand years, sports talk radio,” Maybin said. “This is what I should have been doing … I’ve felt like more of a fan that was trapped in a damn good basketball player’s body.

“If you have an ounce of sympathy for me, you have sympathy for the wrong person. Too much good in my life happens too often for me to be your sob story.”

No sobs. Just applause. Pay attention: You can listen to Middays with Maybin Monday-through-Friday from 10-to-noon on 93.9 FM in Louisville.

His goal: Make you laugh – and think. Most of all, Maybin is determined you will not change the channel. Sponsors have noticed. Companies like Papa John’s have called and asked to be part of his show.

It’s difficult to believe Maybin has only been a full-time radio personality since March. It’s considerably more difficult to believe this is the same guy who waved off microphones and interview requests two years ago.

Maybin knew he had a story to tell. He always has. He simply was not ready to tell it -- yet.

“How many times have you thought of a scenario and said, ‘Who would be there for me if I lost my money?’ “ Maybin asked. “If I got in this accident?

“I actually got to live that situation. I actually got to see that people did not abandon me. More people came to help. I got to live that, just to know how life works a little bit, to actually have the experience.”

One of the 15 leading basketball scorers at the University of Louisville with 1,624 points, Maybin’s career ended in 2001, the year Denny Crum retired. He played two seasons overseas. Maybin was convinced he could make one more run at the NBA.

On Aug. 5, 2003 his life changed. Several months after purchasing his first motorcycle, Maybin drove into the rear end of a truck while accelerating at an intersection in Clarksville, Tenn.

The result: A traumatic injury to his central nervous system. Maybin could not walk.

He was airlifted to Vanderbilt Medical Center in Nashville for a series of surgeries. His family faced a considerable stack of medical bills because Maybin was not insured. He needed six months of rehab at the Shepherd Center, a premier facility in Atlanta – and they offered a scholarship.

U of L basketball coach Rick Pitino, Cards’ assistant athletic director Kenny Klein and friend Jonathan Israel, a former student manager, organized fund-raisers, including a home basketball game, to cover many of Maybin’s expenses.

Klein called Maybin often, quietly encouraging him to return to Louisville to finish nearly two semesters of course work to earn his degree in psychology.

One problem: Maybin was not ready.

Israel worked the phone. Come back to Louisville. Take advantage of the medical, educational and social resources. People are eager to help.

Maybin was not ready for that, either. Not for two years.

“A lot of guys got tired, not that I was moping, but it was, ‘Hey, you have so much to offer in so many areas,’ “ Maybin said. “I got that speech … my friends and loved ones’ patience changed. They got tired of me not glowing, not being who I am.”

In March 2005, Maybin got more than a speech. Maybin got an order. Louisville was booked for its opening NCAA Tournament game in Nashville, about 50 miles from Maybin’s home in Clarksville.

Israel drove to Clarksville. He knocked on Maybin’s door. Israel and Maybin tell the story better than I can.

“I showed up at the front door, saw him and gave him a hug,” Israel said. “Then I said, ‘Now, go get your bags.’

“He said, ‘For what?’ I said, ‘You’re going to Nashville.’

“He said, “No, I’m not going to Nashville. I’m not ready for that.’

“I said, ‘Ready for what? You’re going to Nashville. We’re going to get you a hotel room, you’re going to stay in the hotel room. You’re going to go to the basketball game and then you’re going home.

"He goes, ‘I’m not ready for that.’ I said, ‘You’re going! I came here to pick you up. It’s non-negotiable.’"

Said Maybin, “I went from bed to chair to book bag to part of what is it, the pre-game party or pep rally? So now I’m in Nashville.

“An hour ago I was trying to figure out what I wanted to do with the rest of my life. Now I’m at a pep rally for the University of Louisville with loved ones. Because that’s what they are, loved ones.”

Fans and players were ecstatic to love him. Hugs in the hotel lobby. Everybody wanted to buy him something to eat or drink. They encouraged him to return to Louisville. They were determined to help. Go to the game. Cheer for the Cardinals.

Maybin went.

When Maybin was shown on the video board during Louisville’s game against Louisiana-Lafayette, there was an immediate standing ovation, even on press row.

Maybin smiled and cried.

“It was so fast and direct that you had no choice but to say, there’s a spot for you out here in the Louisville community that you need to fill,” he said. “You owe it to them to fill. Stop being selfish.”

In 2005, two years after the accident, Maybin packed his wheelchair and moved to Louisville. He finished work on his degree. He connected with friends, especially Israel and Klein.

That was more than a decade ago. His radio involvement has only heated up this winter. Where has Maybin been the last decade?

He’s been in Louisville. Selling cars. Working on Internet projects and other jobs. Attending occasional U of L basketball, football and baseball games while trying, with considerable success, not to attract attention. Proceeding at his pace, which is thoughtful and deliberate.

Maybin’s career in sports talk radio began as a consumer, not as a host. He said that he listened to shows and found himself speaking, sometimes yelling, at the radio.

He made a guest appearance with former TV sportscaster Bob Domine. Liked it. He made another appearance with radio host Jerry Eaves, who helped coach him at U of L. Like that one, too.

“I could do the phone,” Maybin said. “I could sit in the kitchen and just laugh and joke because there’s no consequences. But I was terrified to do the studio thing. I eventually got up the nerve to make it happen.”

Before the start of the 2015 NCAA Tournament, Drew Deener, vice president of ESPN Louisville and host of the Deener Show, read a story about Maybin. He invited him as a guest to discuss the tournament from a player’s perspective.

“He was a natural,” Deener said. “You could see his smile come through the radio. We started getting calls saying that we needed to have him on more often. You can listen to a guy and tell if he has it and Marques had it.”

One telephone appearance led to the next. Multiple telephone appearances led to a studio visit. His confidence growing, Maybin agreed to make another trip to the studio, on Cardinal Boulevard between Third and Fourth streets.

His car, a white Lexus sedan, is equipped with controls that Maybin can operate with his hands. After years of purposeful therapy, he has almost normal dexterity and feeling in his upper body. Maybin maneuvers his wheelchair into position by the driver’s door, hops into his seat, pops the wheels off the chair, tosses it into his backseat and goes. Without assistance.

No hesitation there. The hesitation was entering the media scrum full-time.

"I told Drew, ‘I don’t want to crash your show,’" Maybin said.

But Deener realized where this was heading. He made Maybin a regular guest. When former 93.9 host Howie Lindsay departed for another station in March, Lindsay’s replacement was a no-brainer:

Middays with Marques Maybin was born.

Building an audience with any radio show takes time, especially in a crowded market at a station with a limited FM signal. But Maybin said that he has been told his show has the best numbers for retaining listeners at 93.9 or 680.

Around the studio, they call Maybin a "studio rat." He is willing to fill in at any time, on any platform – and tackle any subject.

Radio and talking sports is what he wants to do. Marques Maybin loves it. He can’t get enough.

"What would I write, if I was writing my story?" Maybin said.

“I would have to promise in the first paragraph that this is non-fiction because I know the story would seem so made up. I would want people to know that I’m telling the truth about my story. I don’t want to do the Eminem Eight-Mile version of the story.

“I would just sit down and give it to them and hope it’s inspirational enough for you to pass along or get somebody else to read. Just hope it helps. I would say I just hope this book helps you and I hope you realize it’s non-fiction. This stuff is real.”

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