Aaron Maddox chose to play football at Colorado because he wanted to make an impact. Ideally, right away.
So, when he came to Boulder in January and found out he needed shoulder surgery that would keep him on the sidelines for the entirety of spring ball, he was crushed.
"It was pretty demoralizing at first," he said. "I had to stay level headed and I had to stay focused on the goal."
A transfer from Pima (Ariz.) Community College, Maddox hasn't let the injury get to him, and as he goes through his first fall camp with the Buffaloes, he's an important part of a safety group that sorely needs some depth to emerge.
The 6-foot-1, 190-pound sophomore has been one of the top backups in camp to senior starters Nick Fisher and Evan Worthington. Maddox is also working at nickel back.
"Getting my feet wet, it's pretty tough learning two positions at the same time," Maddox said. "It's a lot of different techniques and a lot of different coverages you have to play. Just taking it day by day."
Playing two different positions - in addition to practicing punt and kickoff returns - may be a lot on Maddox's plate, but he'll certainly take that over standing on the sidelines.
Maddox suffered a torn labrum early in the 2017 season at Pima, but nobody there knew how bad he was hurt. So, he kept playing.
"I didn't even realize I had a torn labrum (until coming to CU)," he said.
When CU's doctors discovered the injury, Maddox really had two choices: hang his head in disappointment or figure out a different way to get better. That choice was easy.
"I talked to my dad," he said. "My dad played at the University of Arizona and the New York Giants for a little bit, so he's familiar with the road of injuries and the road of getting through things. He told me to look at the positive side of it."
His father, Richard Maddox II, certainly knows how to navigate bumpy roads. A father at 18, Richard also began his college football career at a junior college before earning his way to Division I. He was a husband and father of three boys by the time he got to Arizona on a scholarship (Aaron was born several years later).
A captain on Arizona's famous Desert Swarm defense in 1992, Richard had his NFL career cut short because of injury.
Compared to his father's path, dealing with a shoulder injury was relatively easy for Maddox.
"I took it as a blessing to be able to sit down and focus on the plays and focus on the things I really need to focus on," said Maddox, who has seven brothers and a sister. "Talent can't get you everywhere at this level. It can help, but at the same time, but when you have technique, talent and you work hard, that really makes a great player, and I'm trying to be that great player for the Colorado Buffaloes."
Undersized coming out of North Augusta (S.C.) High School in 2016, Maddox didn't get much recruiting attention. He wound up grayshirting and enrolling at Pima in January 2017. In his one year at Pima, he earned second-team All-America honors from GridironRR.com and was regarded as one of the top JUCO safeties in the country.
"I've had a little bit of hype coming in and I don't want to let any of the coaches down and I don't want to let the Colorado Buffaloes down," he said.
Despite the hype, Maddox realizes he has to earn his spot on the depth chart - and he's soaking in all the lessons he can from head coach Mike MacIntyre, safeties coach ShaDon Brown and his teammates.
"You can learn from other people and take different techniques from other people that maybe you can incorporate in your own game," he said. "All of it is a learning experience. (CU's veterans) have got some really good experience and I'm just getting here. So I'm really thankful for being able to witness all of this and be able to take it all into my game and my craft."
So far, Brown has been impressed with the skills Maddox brings to the secondary.
"When he makes a mistake, he can make up for a mistake because he's fast," Brown said. "He can cover ground, he can play man coverage and he has outstanding ball skills. When he goes the right direction and knows what he's doing, he looks like a blur out there because he can run. He's a multi-talented kid and he's coming a long way."
It may have been a slow start for Maddox, but he's catching up and ready to contribute in any way he can.
"I'm excited for this season," he said. "I'm ready to get out there and experience what the Pac-12 is all about."