There’s a cliché about rolling up your sleeves and going to work. That’s what Brendan Mahondid last week at the Carolina Panthers’ rookie camp. He rolled up the sleeves of his jersey, No. 63, and went after the blocking sled as if it taunted him.
A guard, Mahon is an undrafted free agent the Panthers signed to a contract. At Penn State, he played tackle, guard and center. Sometimes, he played two of the positions in a single game.
NCAA sanctions in the wake of the school’s Jerry Sandusky scandal derailed Penn State’s offensive line pipeline and understandably sent Penn State players scurrying. Mahon was one of five core players from the 2012 recruiting class that chose to stay. Among the others: quarterback Christian Hackenberg (now with the New York Jets) and linebacker Garrett Sickels (Los Angeles Rams).
Mahon suffered a knee injury in 2016, and left the field on a cart. The line already was thin. He was hospitalized because of an infection. In 2017, he became one of the best run-blockers in college football, and allowed only three pressures on the quarterback before missing the final three games with an injury.
Surprised you weren’t drafted?
“Everybody expects to be drafted,” says Mahon, 6-4 and 320 pounds. “But I couldn’t be happier.”
As the sweat rolls off him, Mahon smiles. He smiles as if he had a great morning in the Charlotte sun. He got to play. This is a man that was not allowed to participate in peewee football in his native New Jersey because he was never a peewee.
“I’m a late bloomer,” he says.
“That’s my guy,” says Carolina general manager Marty Hurney, who watched Mahon on tape and attended one game to scout him live. “He just has that look in his eye. He’s physical. He’s got a chance.”
Except for Mahon, only the high draft picks and local players stay after practice for interviews. Mahon answers questions and smiles and laughs. He acts as if he has an amazing opportunity. He’s correct.