Ask Bob Burt, Cal State Fullerton defensive coordinator, to describe linebacker Russ Maybury and he responds with a question: "You mean what's left of him?"
Coach Gene Murphy is sure the senior will be able to get a job right out of college . . . "as a cadaver," he says, winking.
Even Maybury refers to himself as "the deaf, dumb, blind and broken up linebacker."
And Maybury is supposed to stabilize the Titan linebacker corps? Hospitalize, maybe. In four years at Fullerton, Maybury has injured both knees, a shoulder and an ankle, not to mention a number of other broken bones that didn't keep him out of action.
"He always tells me that he can't play well unless he's hurting," Murphy said. "It's hard to evaluate playing in pain because everyone has a different threshold. Russell's is nonexistent. He's oblivious to pain.
"I still remember the 'Mud Bowl' (a 1983 game against Nevada Las Vegas in a downpour at Glover Stadium). Russ had a broken left hand, an ankle that was held together with tape, a bad shoulder and he still wouldn't come out."
Maybury, who has impaired hearing in both ears stemming from childhood infections, suffered a host of other physical problems on the football field. He had major reconstructive surgery on his left knee after being clipped on a punt return during the fifth game of his freshman season. "The guy got a flag and I got a knee," Maybury says, smiling.
He also got another season of eligibility the hard way.
When he came back the next season, the coaching staff decided to convert him to tight end, hoping to prolong his career and save his knee. It was a reluctant move, though.
"He was one of the three best freshman linebackers I've ever been around, including Steve Lehor at Hawaii and John Nevens here," Burt said. "But we decided to move him to offense to try and save the knee."
Maybury had an injury-free season and caught all four passes thrown his direction, but he was still a linebacker trapped in a tight end's uniform.
"I used my knowledge of playing linebacker to my advantage," Maybury said. "I knew what they were thinking and what they'd do. But I really missed playing defense and being right in the middle of things."
Murphy decided to give Maybury another chance at the inside linebacker spot in 1983. But during a one-on-one drill against Nevens, Maybury dislocated his shoulder, an injury Maybury refers to as "nothing" because he only missed part of spring practice.
Three days before the '83 opener, the list of Maybury's Maladies grew again. He stepped in a hole on the practice field and injured his ankle.
"I'm usually a real fast healer," he said, speaking from a wealth of experience, "but this thing wouldn't get better. Then they examined it more closely and found I'd broken a bone and severed a ligament. I wasn't about to lose another year, though, so I just played all year with the help of a whole lot of tape."
Maybury managed to get through 1984 without a visit to the hospital and had the biggest game of the season Sept. 15 against Idaho in relief of the injured Nevens. He had two sacks, recovered two fumbles to set up the game-tying and go-ahead touchdowns, deflected a pass and had seven solo tackles to earn Pacific Coast Athletic Assn. Defensive Player of the Week honors.
He finished the year with 38 tackles as Nevens' backup and was looking forward to his senior year and the chance to start his first game this season. But, he twisted his right knee during spring practice and chipped the kneecap.
He had the chip removed by arthroscopic surgery, and was jogging the same day. Determined not to let his senior season slip away in a sea of injuries, Maybury put himself through a rigorous training regimen this summer.
Now, five months after his second knee operation, Maybury is in the best shape of his career, according to Murphy.
"He's had more dang injuries than your average 85-year-old but he's in great playing condition right now," Murphy said. "I'm really happy with the way he's pushed himself this summer. He came in looking great and he obviously wanted to be commended. I just yelled at him for not doing the same thing every summer in the past, though.
"But he knew I was pleased. We have an unspoken understanding."
Murphy was unaware of Maybury's hearing difficulty--he has tonal deafness in both ears which affects his hearing of certain tones only--until one day while watching game films Murphy noticed that Maybury would cock his head whenever quarterback Damon Allen called an audible.
"Damon had kind of a high-pitched voice and it was a little hard for me to hear," Maybury said. "I never missed an audible, though. That's when coach confronted me about it. Maybe that's why they switched me back to linebacker.
"Now coach likes to sneak up behind me and whisper stuff. And at roll call, he always goes, 'Lockett, Martinez, MAYBURY' . . . It's a big joke now."