It’s early August and things are going pretty well for Ottawa REDBLACKS defensive lineman Lorenzo Mauldin IV. While the team’s won-loss record isn’t where it could be, “Lozo” is the CFL sacks leader, already bearing down on Ottawa’s single season record. Away from the field, Mauldin has a beautiful young family and a fitness business, helping people stay in shape online. The 29 year old is easy with a smile, and walks with all the confidence you’d expect of a strong, young pro athlete.
Yes, life seems pretty good for Lorenzo Mauldin IV. But it wasn’t always like that.
Mauldin had a very tough childhood, filled with poverty, anger and circumstances that would shake anyone, let alone a child. His biggest challenge by far was growing up without his parents, both sentenced to long prison terms when he was very young. Mauldin can only guess exactly how many foster homes he and his siblings had to live in from age 5 until he was 18 (for the record, his best guess is 12).
We recently had a chance to connect with Mauldin to get to know him better, discussing the adversity of his childhood; his football career to this point; and his amazing turnaround – an inspiring tale of resiliency and strength.
You signed with Ottawa back in February after two years in Hamilton. What went into your decision to sign here?
Our GM Shawn Burke was the guy who brought me into Hamilton for my first opportunity here in CFL, so why not follow where the trust is?
You’ve had some amazing football moments in the past. What was it like to play in New York? That’s a tough media there and it’s been a long time since the Jets won.
It was a great feeling playing in New York. I networked like crazy. It was great playing beside some future hall of famers and also being coached by Hall of Famer Kevin Greene, rest his soul (Greene died of a heart attack in 2020).
At Louisville, you had a big upset win over #3 Florida at the 2013 Sugar Bowl. What do you remember about that game and your time at Louisville?
I remember a lot. The first play of the game being a pick six by Terrell Floyd. I remember QB Teddy Bridgewater getting cracked by John Bostic, then coming back and picking their defense apart. That year was pretty special for us, going to a BCS bowl game and knocking off a high ranked team. It gave our team a lot of confidence. Louisville was a great city to play for, the fans are unbelievable and the support there was unmatched!
Can you describe how it felt hearing your name get called by the Jets in the 2015 NFL Draft?
As a foster child dreaming of one day making it to the NFL, being told that the percentage of me going was low and having some doubt at times, hearing my name made me doubt myself no more.
On that note, you definitely managed to come out strong from an incredibly challenging childhood. Can you tell us about your parents’ issues and your life coming up in Atlanta?
My parents were regular people who got caught up in the wrong things in life and the consequences led to parentless children. We were forced to become wards of the state and we hopped around so much, the dwellings became countless. None seemed to work out and my 4 siblings and I were separated. Group and foster homes were the story for a long time. After organized football started in Grade 10, everything became a blur.
How did you deal with all that as a kid?
I didn’t. I kept it all in and it made me a very angry child. I threw tantrums and lashed out a lot. I fought a lot and just used my circumstances as an excuse to do so. I had a “You’re not my parents so back the hell off,” attitude.
What helped turn things around for you? Was it football? A person. A coach? Or a solo effort?
I’d be lying if I didn’t say football. The game itself and what it means to me is unexplainable. It’s made so many decisions for me at the right times. It’s just…the game saved my life. The coaches, the people, and all of the support it brought me changed my life for the better.
How did football come into your life?
One of my foster parents, Andrea Monique Goodwin, thought it’d be good if I played sports (little league football) and so I did. I was a wide receiver but my career didn’t go too long after breaking my ankle within the first few games. I didn’t want to play anymore after that. I didn’t pick up a football until high school in my sophomore year. The coaches asked me what position I played and I told them wide receiver. They laughed and told me I wouldn’t be playing receiver. I had a gained a lot of weight and was one of the tallest kids in the school. So on to defense I went.
Did you end up reuniting with your parents at some point?
I did. My mom was in and out of jail but I saw her here and there. My dad was trying to get his life together before we went to see him in California when he was released from prison. l met him for the first time when I was 18.
Does it help you now as a person, player, husband or parent, knowing you successfully overcame that adversity?
As a player/person, it’s definitely given me the resiliency and tenacity I need to be who I am, on and off the field. I pride myself in “sticking it to the man,” proving so many people wrong, and remembering they told that little kid his chances were slim.
As a father, I have so much to say, but the thing that matters is that my daughter will only know what hardships are by my description. She will never endure it because I already have for her 29 times over.
As a husband, it speaks for itself. The love I was neglected and the new love that found me, she is getting every bit of that from me. I know what it’s like being alone and I don’t like the feeling. I’ve let someone else love me and I know it’s true. My past has definitely given me a sense of satisfaction and appreciation for what I have today.
Can you tell us a little bit more about your wife and daughter?
Yes, my wife Erika and daughter Serenity Mauldin. They are a lot of fun – their energy gives me a boost each day. I’m reminded each and every day they’re here for me during the toughest and the greatest moments. Erika is both spicy and sweet and has the greatest personality you can’t hide. Serenity is a hefty ball of joy, I say hefty because the girl is rock solid. She’s 3 years old and people mistake her for 5. Her personality is pretty unique. Many would say “she’s been here before.”
What’s it been like being a dad?
It’s everything I hoped it would be. I have so much fun with her it’s unbelievable. It’s literally something new every day. I’m infatuated with her. After a long day at work, having a little person run up yelling, “Daddy’s Home!” makes life that much more great.
They came to Ottawa with you, right? What’s that been like for you to have them around more?
Yeah, they’re back and forth. It’s been great having them here. They give me a better sense of mental stability. I can focus because I know they’re safe at all times. I’m able to stay stress-free and hone in more on my game and have them cheer for me when the lights come on. It’s a blessing to have them by my side.
Which of your Ottawa teammates do you spend the most time with off the field?
Mainly the other defensive linemen: Cleyon Laing, Davon Coleman, Tre Hornbuckle and Praise Martin-Oguike. Usually anyone that’s around.
Which Ottawa teammate is the loudest? The funniest? And who’s the teammate who’ll do anything for you?
The loudest I’d have to say it’s a tie between Shaq Johnson and Pat Levels. Pat Levels is definitely the funniest. I believe Tre Hornbuckle is Mr. Reliable and will come through when I need him.
How are you enjoying the city so far?
The city of Ottawa has a lot to offer and so far it’s treated us pretty well. We’re excited to get involved.
What do you like to do in Ottawa in your spare time away from football?
Rest. Find a nice local restaurant, some good scenery and just rest.
What would you like to do after pro football is over?
I’d like to help people any way I can. I’ve always said I’ve entertained them long enough, why not save them or help them? Becoming a fireman and running my fitness/sports training business are pretty much what it’s looking like.
Tell us more about your business, Iron Cardinal Fitness and Training.
I started the business during 2020 when everything was shut down and people couldn’t get to the gym. It’s an online service powered by Zoom to help people get fit in their living rooms with what they have in their home as props or weights. Our website is IronCardinal.com.
In closing, what would be your message to the die hard Ottawa football fans out there?
I’m happy to be a part of your great city, bringing you entertainment and pride within this team. Win or lose, we know you will be there for us through thick and thin. Thank you for that. I will give everything I have in me to give you a good show while helping my brothers and our team win another Grey Cup! Let’s flip the script, Rnation!
By Steve Warne
Photography by Sean Sisk