Overcoming adversity is one of the many challenges that people face in life. Somehow though, FIU running back Napoleon Maxwell makes it seem rather easy.
Maxwell showcased his potential in his freshman season with the Panthers. Unfortunately for the St. Petersburg native, he suffered season-ending ACL injuries during the 2015 and 2016 seasons.
Although there was a brief moment in time where Maxwell wasn’t sure if he’d continue his football career, he returned and played a pivotal role for Butch Davis’ team. He finished his career at FIU with 2,090 rushing yards and 22 touchdowns.
We were fortunate enough to sit down with Maxwell to talk about his collegiate career and how he’s preparing for the NFL Draft. Let’s get this interview started.
The Spun: Out of all the players available in the NFL Draft, you might have the most unique story. You missed time due to injury but returned and played at a high level. Now you’re just two months away from being in the NFL. Has that sunk in for you yet?
Napoleon Maxwell: You know it really has. To be able to come back and play football after all the injuries I’ve had is something I’ve cherished just because I’m able to play to do something I love.
The Spun: Was there ever a point in your career where you thought about walking away due to injuries, and if so, what kept you going?
NM: Pretty much after I re-tore my ACL, I would say there was a moment where I thought about walking away from football. But with the support of my family, friends and teammates, they all kept me up and told me how much I meant to FIU’s program. Just hearing those type of things helped me move forward.
— New Era Prep (@EraPrep) November 3, 2019
The Spun: Each year you got a little more involved in the passing game. Is that something you’re focusing on heading into the NFL Draft?
NM: Of course. You can always get better at anything you’re doing on the field. Over the years I told coaches I know I can run the ball, but you can see the change at the running back position in the NFL. Just being able to catch the ball out of the different positions is something I wanted to improve on each year. With the draft coming up it’s still something I want to improve, especially before my pro day.
The Spun: Despite all your success at FIU, you didn’t receive an invitation to the NFL Combine. How do you shake that off and find a way to use that as motivation?
NM: Every year there are plenty of athletes and running backs that don’t receive an invite to the NFL Combine. That doesn’t say a lot about any of those players. I have to be ready to go at my pro day and show scouts and GMs that I can be the running back they need.
This week I spoke to FIU RB Napoleon Maxwell. Despite suffering two ACL injuries in college, he bounced back and proved he can be a playmaker. He might have the best story out of any prospect in the draft. My interview with him will be available tomorrow. pic.twitter.com/lXdeTjTY6S
— Chris Rosvoglou (@RosvoglouReport) February 12, 2020
The Spun: Which running back(s) do you try to model your game after?
NM: Over the past year I’ve been watching Aaron Jones and Ezekiel Elliott. I like the way those two run the ball. Now that Aaron Jones is getting involved in the passing game for Green Bay, I’ve really liked watching him. As for Ezekiel Elliott, I just really like how hard he runs the football.
The Spun: FIU defeated Miami this past season. How’d it feel to defeat such a notable program?
NM: Since they were in-state rivals it made that game so much more than what people on the outside thought it would be. For us to go in as underdogs in Miami’s area and come out with a victory, it just meant so much to us. We worked hard all week for that game and we had a bye week before that matchup, so for two weeks we put together a game plan to defeat those guys. To come out victorious against Miami was such a blessing.
— FIU Football (@FIUFootball) November 24, 2019
The Spun: It was also a big win for Butch Davis, who coached the Hurricanes for six years. How impactful has Coach Davis been for your career?
NM: I believe that was a big thing for me coming back from my injuries. Having a coach that believed in me and thought I’d be able to get back on the field and produce was a big thing not just for my career, but for our team.
The Spun: Looking back at your career, what would you say was your defining moment at FIU?
NM: I would say my defining moment was the first season coming off my ACL injuries (2017). That year I showed everyone in the country that I could be a running back that still has so much to give. Just being a part of this program and being a part of something special has meant so much to me.
Maxwell obviously would have preferred an invitation to the NFL Combine, but we’ve seen running backs fly under the radar in the past only to shine immediately as a rookie.
Two years ago, Phillip Lindsay didn’t receive an invitation to the combine. That didn’t affect him though, as he made the Pro Bowl in his first season with the Denver Broncos.
The NFL combine comes around yearly and leaves many hopeful athletes feeling empty and angry. But Young Kings, use this to find your FIRE and DRIVE! Go turn a so called “doubtful dream” into a solid reality. No man can ever dictate how your journey will end up,YOU are in control!
— Phillip Lindsay (@I_CU_boy) February 10, 2020
Lindsay’s message should inspire players like Maxwell. Besides, he’ll have the chance to showcase his skills for NFL scouts at FIU’s Pro Day later this year.
You can read more of our interviews with athletes or media stars here.