Coming out of talent-rich Tampa, Florida, Brad Mayes had aspirations of playing college football at the FBS level among his peers who signed with high profile universities.
Any player with his accolades would expect as much.
Instead, the three-time all-state selection would play at Lehigh, in part due to his then 6-1, 190-pound frame.
Four years later, you can find Mayes’ name written across the Mountain Hawks’ record books.
He finished his career third all-time in passing yards, passing touchdowns and set a program record for passing yards in a game, with his 526-yard performance as a sophomore against Yale.
Now, his sights are set on the NFL, once again looking to prove that he belongs.
Mayes sat down with UDD to talk about his career and what he’s looking to accomplish as he heads to the NFL regional combine.
EH: Your dad was your first football coach and actually played for Bobby Bowden at Florida State. What was it like playing for your dad?
Mayes: Yeah, he actually was recruited by Lehigh. He’s from New Jersey but ended up at Florida State. He didn’t finish up there.
But he had the opportunity to be around Coach Bowden in practices and that’s really cool. Then growing up, he was my coach from when I was from eight until I was around 14 or 15.
I got into playing quarterback because I was always a good athlete, then living with the head coach, he was able to teach me the plays.
EH: Speaking of your early quarterback training, I know you worked with John Kaleo (Maryland quarterback 1991-1992) who is a close family friend.
Mayes: Yeah, I’ve been working with him since I was 10 and it’s been great.
If I need anything in life in general, or football, I can always call him or text him.
Throughout college, he had my Hudl log in and he was able to go in and watch all my games and tell me what I was doing well and what I wasn’t doing well.
We’re really good friends with his family and he’s taught me a lot over the years. I’m truly grateful.
EH: What led you to Lehigh?
Mayes: Four years ago, it felt like height was everything.
I remember specifically, a coach from a big-time division one school recruited me.
He came in, he told me that he loved me, but I just wasn’t the right height and he said if I was two inches taller than I would have had offers from around the country.
So that was kind of disheartening to hear.
It would be interesting to see if I was coming out of high school today, how height doesn’t necessarily matter. At least not as much as it used to.
EH: You started early on in your college career and had success, especially in your junior year. But this past season was up and down. What contributed to that?
Mayes: Losing a wideout in Gatlin Casey (Casey transferred to Middle Tennessee State for his final season).
Then we also lost three of our best linemen who graduated. So, it was definitely a transition year.
In the sense that it took time to build that continuity with the younger guys, opposed to the veterans.
It was definitely a tough task to go out there and, you know, put up the performances that we did in my junior year. But it was definitely a learning experience for me just to, you know, learn how to handle it kind of deal with that stuff.
EH: What would you say are your biggest strengths and what are you working on now?
Mayes: My passion to play the game, every quarterback at this point has a strong arm.
Every quarterback is pretty accurate at this point. I say it all the time. I hate losing just as much as I, as I love winning.
I think bringing that passion and my understanding of defenses and what they’re trying to do against me and understanding things like when do we need to run against certain defenses.
Just my entire mental approach to the game.
What I’m working on now is the fact that for four years, I haven’t had to call a play in the huddle. Everything was just signaled in through the sidelines.
Also, working under center. That’s been something I haven’t had to do since high school. But I’ve done it before, so it’s just a matter of getting back up to speed.
EH: Who is an NFL player that you would compare yourself to?
Mayes: I’d say Nick Mullens and Case Keenum. Two under the radar guys who just try to go out there and make the most of their own abilities.
Not the biggest guys, didn’t go to the biggest schools, but they give it their all and have carved out a spot for them in the league.
EH: What was your most memorable game or play at Lehigh?
Mayes: It’s probably my sophomore year when I had to step in after the starter got hurt. We played at Yale.
I threw for 524 yards and six touchdowns and broke a 24-year-old record. Doing it at the stadium at Yale is huge. They’ve been playing football there for 100 years.
EH: When you’re not playing football, what do you like to do to clear your mind?
Mayes: So, I like watching Netflix, watching HBO series. Things like Game of Thrones and The Office. I also like playing video games as well.
Like I said, I’m really competitive. I have a whiteboard in my room and my best friend on the team and I, we tally each game that we played against each other.
I’m beating him handedly in Madden and 2K.
EH: What’s the worst ever beat-down you’ve put on him?
Mayes: If it gets to 21-0, we end that game and get a new one going. In Madden, I’ve done that to him in under four minutes. Plenty of times.
EH: Before a game, what are you listening to the get your mind right?
Mayes: I’m kind of loose before games.
Everybody looks at the quarterback to be the face of the program.
So, I try to be relaxed, let my teammates know it’s just a game, but just know that you have to have that switch has to turn on and that it’s go time.
I don’t want the guys to be too tight before the game, just know when it’s time to ball, cut it loose. As far as what I’m listening too, it depends on what comes out at that time.
Drake, Migos, Travis Scott. A lot of the bigger named Hip-Hop guys.
EH: What’s it like being from Tampa?
Mayes: I think what I enjoy most about it is the weather. That gets overlooked until you move up North.
Being able to wear shorts year-round and growing up, I was always outside playing with my friends in high school I was a three-sport athlete, so I played football, baseball and basketball.
EH: What’s your most embarrassing moment in college on the field?
Mayes: My freshman year. I had to start a game, and this was before I’d truly gotten into the weight room. Hadn’t gotten on a nutrition plan, I was still kind of, you know, the little guy from high school.
I threw a pass and it got tipped at the line and I actually caught it.
As soon as I looked up and processed what happened, I got murdered. It was unbelievable how hard I got hit. From there on out, if a pass gets tipped as line, I just knock it down.
It’s kind of one of those lessons that I learned a little bit early.
But I did take the opportunity to tell my friend on the team that’s a wide receiver, he didn’t play early on. I had to let him know, I had more receptions than him. Jokingly of course.
EH: Last one. I’m an NFL GM or head coach. Why should I take a shot on Brad Mayes from Lehigh?
Mayes: I was watching the NFL combine recently.
Some people had a hard time with the questions about adjusting protections and the mental aspect of the game. That’s what I had to do throughout my time in college.
At Lehigh, we set the protection ourselves.
So, I had to learn that and master that as a freshman, as an 18-year-old kid I had to identify where certain blitzes were coming from, because, you know, if I didn’t, I was, that was on me.
I genuinely believe that my football IQ is where I can compete with anybody. I’m willing to do whatever it takes to win a game.
I can’t say this enough, but I hate losing. Also, I just love football.
There were times this season where I got sacked seven or eight times, but you just keep on going. Because as the leader of the team, you put them first. I know we had some young guys out there, but I’ve got to keep going, because they’ll look at me and see my demeanor.
Those intangibles, nobody is going to out work me or have more heart than me.