OGDEN For Weber State fullback Marcus Mailei, it was time.
During the offseason prior to his senior season with the Wildcats, it was time for him to take his strength and conditioning to another level.
It was time for him to get serious about his aspirations to play in the National Football League. It was time for him, as a team captain, to become a leader by example.
"He's had a hell of a camp," said Wildcats coach Ron McBride. "He's been a big-time player since he's been here. But this is the best shape he's been in, the best condition he's been in."
Mailei, a Highland High graduate and all-Big Sky Conference pick in 2007, has lost 15 pounds since the end of last season and increased his bench press and squat maxes. He now benches 405 pounds and squats 565.
Mailei, in his previous three seasons at Weber State, has already established himself as a key component of the team's offense. With one last season to play college football, he's leaner, stronger and looking to make a bigger impact for the Wildcats.
"It's a personal thing, too," Mailei said. "I've always been a competitor. Hopefully it (the hard work) transfers to the field and everything goes as planned this season."
The plan is for Mailei to get a few more carries than he's accustomed to at his fullback position. The plan is also to split him out wide in five-wide sets so that the offense doesn't have to change personnel. The one plan that isn't changing is to have him pulverize defenders and help open holes for running back Trevyn Smith.
"Whoever the stud is on the other team send me after him," Mailei said. "The rest of the team is looking up to me and the other captains. I think they might be giving me the ball a little more, but my position is for blocking. That's what I do best."
McBride agrees with that statement but says you can't discount Mailei's ability to run the ball.
"He's run the ball well when he's had to run it," McBride said. "He's blocked well. He's a difference-maker."
A few factors had to come together for Mailei to be able to properly prepare for his senior year. His wife, Kristen, due to deliver the couple's first child any time now, offered to work during the summer so that Mailei wouldn't have to. That freed up Mailei, who usually worked hard-labor jobs during the summer, to focus on his workouts and his studying. It also kept him from having to commute to and from Salt Lake and Ogden every day.
"I definitely want to support my family," Mailei said. "I'll work as hard as I possibly can to create the best life possible for whoever I'm with. Luckily, my wife has been helping me a lot. She's throwing her chips in there with me."
Mailei believes all the hard work he's put in will pay off with a strong senior season one that will help him get noticed by NFL scouts. Mailei has the size and blocking ability to play on Sundays, and he hopes to join Highland graduates Haloti Ngata and Stewart Bradley in the pros.
Mailei's versatility is something pro scouts value. He is a fullback, but he doesn't have fullback hands. He was the team's third-leading receiver in 2006, hauling in 20 receptions for 241 yards and three touchdowns. Last year he had 18 catches."He's a dependable guy," said Weber State quarterback Cameron Higgins. "We rode him on third-and-short and still spread him out wide. He can run good routes and make guys miss. We can do a lot of things with him."