The arc of Miguel Maysonet's football career right now is like a rocket in the moments after liftoff, gathering speed and heading off for the stratosphere. Stony Brook's star senior running back has the Walter Payton Award as the outstanding player in the Football Championship Subdivision in his sights, and scouts from 28 of 32 NFL teams have visited.
But if there's one thing Maysonet has learned approaching his final regular-season home game for the Seawolves (8-1, 4-0 Big South) against VMI (2-6, 1-3) at 6 p.m. Saturday at LaValle Stadium, it's a sense of perspective.
"All the hype you grow up having with your football, you have to learn to put that to the side because hype isn't everything," Maysonet said recently. "You can get sidetracked. I learned to focus on the task at hand, and that's getting my schoolwork done and doing what I needed to be a successful football player.
"It's hard when everything is coming at you in bunches, having all these [scouts] come and see you. You're like, 'Wow, it's real.' But I try to just focus on my team and having fun with the guys."
For all the style Maysonet has displayed on the field this season, rushing for 1,502 yards through nine games to rank second in FCS with a per-game average of 166.9 yards and 16 touchdowns, it's his substance that is the most endearing quality.
Four years ago, when he won Newsday's Hansen Award as the top football player in Suffolk County at Riverhead High, he said, "I came from nothing."
He detailed an existence in which he and his mother, Yolanda Santana, occupied an apartment over a garage that had no shower or bathtub, requiring him to heat the water in which he bathed. Since then, their living situation has improved significantly. Luis, one of his two brothers, returned to Long Island from Puerto Rico and has provided sufficient income to allow the family to find better quarters in Riverhead.
"We're excited to be living where we are now," Maysonet said.
Maysonet enjoys a strong relationship with his father, Jose, but his defining influence is the work ethic his mother displayed after the couple divorced during his preschool years. Santana worked as a maid at a local hotel before going to a job at a fast-food franchise.
"I just want to be able to give back to her because she put her all into helping me grow up to be the man I am today," Maysonet said. "She would get off from her hotel job and would have to go to work at Wendy's to make ends meet. You're working from morning until 10 p.m. or midnight at times just to support us.
"When I really noticed it was when I had to do my [financial aid forms] to get into college, and I saw she wasn't making that much money a year. I was thinking, if this football thing can work out for me and I'm able to prosper and succeed, then I can provide for her more than she's ever had in her life."
Maysonet appears likely to become Stony Brook's first NFL draft pick.
"Everybody's been in, and they like his whole package," Seawolves coach Chuck Priore said of pro scouts. "They love who he is. They love what everybody says about him. He's low-maintenance, good grades, and he plays the game. He's an NFL-type back. He doesn't run east-west."
If Stony Brook wins a fourth consecutive Big South title and goes to the Football Championship Subdivision playoffs for the second straight season, it will boost Maysonet's candidacy for the Payton Award. Priore noted that Maysonet's SBU career average of 7.0 yards per carry (8.4 this year) in a run-oriented offense is a good indication of how unstoppable he has been.
"I think he's as good as it comes at this level," Priore said.
Plenty of NFL personnel experts believe Maysonet can succeed at the highest level. In the estimation of one NFL scout who has seen Maysonet, he is likely to be drafted in the fourth or fifth round.
"Maysonet is a shorter back [5-10], but he does a lot of things," said the scout, who asked to remain anonymous. "He's instinctive, very smart, has amazing balance and he hasn't been hurt. He may not run a 4.3 in the open field, but his agility, his athleticism and his ability to change directions on a dime are special.
"At FCS schools, there's always a question of the level of competition. For Maysonet, it doesn't apply. The games he played against FBS schools were his best games."
In five career games against Football Bowl Subdivision opponents, Maysonet averaged 129 yards per game and 6.2 yards per carry with three touchdowns, including runs of 71 yards against Syracuse and 49 against Army this season. He totaled 378 yards rushing in those two games.
"He's almost the perfect prospect in regards to being a good athlete, good production, consistent production, good person, smart student and a leader," the NFL scout said. "It's hard to find all those characteristics in a lot of players."