The NFL draft was droning through the fifth round, and the mood at Miguel Maysonet's draft party was buoyant. Riverhead's favorite son was poised to make history as the first Stony Brook player ever drafted, if you believed all the positive signals Maysonet was receiving from teams in need of a running back.
It was a beautiful day, and Lisa and Tim Hubbard, parents of Maysonet's friend Kyle, a former lacrosse teammate, put out a beautiful spread for what amounted to a civic celebration. But the NFL draft always comes with uncertainty, and Maysonet acknowledged that. "You want to get drafted at a draft party," he said with a smile. But then he added, "They will support me whatever happens. This is family."
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Maysonet's sentiment was accurate, and when the day grew progressively more tense and eventually gave way to the disappointment of not being drafted while 22 other running backs were selected, he could honestly say there was no better place to be than home. When the last of 254 picks was made and Maysonet's name wasn't among them, the partygoers gave him an ovation and a dose of encouragement for the future.
Having grown up under tough economic circumstances in Riverhead, he understands how to get things done the hard way. "Feels good to have everybody supporting me," he said. "I guess there were a lot of running backs who were a lot better than me in their eyes. I have the utmost confidence in my ability. I'll definitely land on my feet. I've been dealing with this forever now, people overlooking me, and I'll do what I have been doing and keep proving people wrong."
Within 45 minutes after the draft ended, Maysonet followed the advice of agent Joe Linta and agreed to sign with the Philadelphia Eagles -- who did not draft any running backs -- as a free agent. "I wish it happened a lot quicker," Maysonet said. "It's still good to have teams interested in you. It's exciting."
Under the circumstances, it was a good ending to a long day. At about 7 p.m., Maysonet heard from Linta that he was unlikely to be taken in the final 10 to 15 picks left in the draft. Lisa Hubbard was so emotional that she had to excuse herself from the kitchen, where Maysonet was surrounded by cameras hoping to record his reaction if the call came. "He thinks he's disappointing us, and he's not," Hubbard said on the backyard deck, where she composed herself. "For the first time today, I think he's stressing. I can tell. It will affect him because he's got so much pride."
Maysonet's story is well-documented. For many years, he lived with his mother, Yolanda Santana, in a room over an auto repair garage with no running water. His mother often worked two jobs as a hotel maid and a fast-food service worker.
So when Maysonet excelled in sports at Riverhead High, he served as what his middle school lacrosse coach, Tony Lawrence, described Saturday as "a shining example of coming from nothing and making it through nurturing and caring from the community."
Lawrence said he always told Maysonet how the comic book character Spider Man learned that "with great power comes great responsibility." Maysonet smiled when asked about Spider Man Saturday and repeated that mantra word for word.
But he said that rather than try to set an example, he focused on being himself. "It's awesome to have everybody behind me," he said, gesturing toward his Riverhead family. "It's not every day you get to have everyone here under the same roof. It's probably more exciting for them than it is for me."
Riverhead football coach Leif Shay views Maysonet's success at Stony Brook as "a positive for Riverhead. It validates the community. He is a hometown hero who loves his hometown."
Recalling Maysonet's determination to succeed, Shay added, "Some kids have motivation that they bring to the table every day . . . When you saw his hands curl up on the field, you knew to give him the ball because great things were going to happen."
When Maysonet was coming out of high school, Shay thought he was a definite Division I prospect, but schools such as Syracuse, West Virginia and Rutgers passed. He went to Hofstra for a year, and when the football program ended, he transferred to Stony Brook, where he set the all-time school rushing record and finished as the runner-up for the 2012 Walter Payton Award, given to the best player at the Football Championship Subdivision (FCS) level.
Shay chuckled when reminded that Maysonet ran for 158 yards in a Stony Brook loss at Syracuse, including a 71-yard TD run. "Miguel might have had some motivation," Shay said. "NFL guys get caught up in numbers, but they don't know what's in your heart. If Miguel is a free agent, whoever signs him is getting a bargain."
The Eagles should find that out soon enough.