Carl Mauck and his younger brothers watched Johnny Unitas lead the Baltimore Colts on a game-winning overtime drive to beat the New York Giants in what has been referred to as “The Greatest Game Ever Played.”
Eleven years later, Mauck was drafted by the Colts in the 13th round. After spending 11 weeks on the taxi squad, a handful of injuries landed Mauck on the Colts’ roster, and, in Week 12, he was snapping the ball to Unitas.
“It was a dream that came true,” Mauck said.
That was the beginning of a 34-year playing and coaching career in the NFL for Mauck.
But McLeansboro was where Mauck’s football roots took hold, and Hamilton County High School honored Mauck last year by naming its field after the former high school linebacker and professional center.
“I think it’s kind of neat, really,” Mauck said. “I grew up playing there, watched all the guys ahead of me. They were my heroes, them and my old man.”
Before going pro, Mauck played at SIU and he credits his high school coach, IHSA Hall of Famer Gene Haile, with preparing him to play at the next level.
“We had a rich tradition of athletics at McLeansboro High School,” Mauck said. “We were very well-coached. I didn’t have to learn a whole lot to play down at Southern. I thought I could compete when I went there.”
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Mauck’s career allowed him to brush shoulders with some of the great coaches and players in the game.
In addition to snapping the ball to Unitas, he also was the center for Bob Griese, Dan Fouts, and Ken Stabler and was teammates with Jim Csonka, Mercury Morris, Paul Warfield and Earl Campbell.
He played two years under Don Shula for the Colts and the Miami Dolphins before being traded to the San Diego Chargers. After he was traded, the Dolphins went to three straight Super Bowls, including their perfect 1972 season.
“I was pretty disappointed,” Mauck said. “I wanted to stay there. I knew they were going to win, but it worked out alright.
“I went out to San Diego and the starting center got hurt in the first game, and I started 166 straight games in a row after that between San Diego and Houston.”
After his 13-year playing career was over, Mauck was set to do a radio show in Houston. But two weeks before that gig began, Bum Phillips, the head coach of the New Orleans Saints, called and told him his offensive line coach was having back surgery and wanted to know if Mauck was available.
“I thought about it and I always said I wouldn’t (coach), but if I don’t do it now, I’ll probably never have another chance,” Mauck said. “I tried it. I liked it. The rest is history.”
Mauck was an offensive line coach for seven different teams. He made it to the Super Bowl in 1994 as the Chargers’ offensive line coach when they played the San Francisco 49ers.
After 34 years in the NFL, Mauck returned to the college ranks for a couple years as a volunteer tight ends coach for SIU under Jerry Kill.
Today, he coaches a high school football team in Texas. He led the Argyle Eagles to the 3A state championship game last year.
“If you want to steal something in Texas, do it between 7 and 10 on Friday night during the football season and you can pretty well clean up,” Mauck said.
Mauck sees little difference between coaching pro and high school football.
“It’s still football.”