As a student at James Madison High School in Dallas in the late 1970s and into 1980, Brett Maxie had plans to go to the Air Force and become a pilot and possibly an optometrist.
His mother had other ideas and encouraged him to go to college.
Four decades later, Maxie’s decision to attend Texas Southern University is still paying off and a lifetime in football has led him to Colorado.
Hired by CU head coach Karl Dorrell in March to coach the Buffs’ safeties, Maxie, 58, is embracing a new opportunity.
“The first thing that jumps out at me is the type of human being that they are. Good guys,” Maxie said of the Buffs’ safeties. “They’re respectful and love football. In terms of what we do from a schematic standpoint, I can tell that they’re going to be able to pick things up fairly easy.
“Good citizens, well respected and very cerebral because they’re going to have to be to play the safety position. They’re gonna have to have some smarts, man, and they do.”
Maxie said CU’s safeties are helping him learn the terminology and the scheme, but it’s a safe bet that the players are going to learn a lot from Maxie’s story-telling and experiences.
Coming out of high school, Maxie went to Texas Southern as a quarterback before switching to defensive back. After a successful career with the Tigers, he signed as an undrafted rookie with the NFL’s New Orleans Saints, sparking a 13-year pro career.
In New Orleans, he spent eight seasons with Vic Fangio, then the Saints’ linebackers coach and now the head coach of the Denver Broncos. When Maxie was done playing, it was Fangio who gave him his first opportunity as a coach, with the Carolina Panthers.
For the past 22 years, Maxie has developed as a coach with seven NFL teams, Vanderbilt University and, most recently, at IMG Academy in Florida.
Having played and coached at all levels gives Maxie a unique perspective he can share with CU players and recruits.
“Absolutely. I think that merits a lot of credence to me having the ability to offer a prospective athlete something outside of the academic, because that’s the first thing you need,” he said. “When they come to college … they are a student first. Then they are an athlete.
“We want students first, but we also want great football players. So yes, I do have that ability and I do approach it that way because of what I’ve been able to do.”
What Maxie has been able to do is make the most of opportunities and display an ability to adapt.
He was not highly recruited out of high school and didn’t get drafted out of college, yet he found success at the highest level of football.
A quarterback in his youth, he accepted a change to defense during his second year at Texas Southern. Then, with the Saints, he embraced opportunities to play cornerback, safety and nickel.
Now that he’s at CU, Maxie is hoping to help others do what he did. He’s excited to be reunited with Dorrell – the two were on Vanderbilt’s staff in 2014 – and energized by the idea of finding versatile players willing to learn, as he did as a player.
“If you’re disciplined enough to execute the techniques that I think can help you get to the next level, then you’ll have an opportunity, along with your fire that burns inside of you to want to be an NFL player,” he said. “That’s one of the things that I’m able to offer kids when I’m recruiting them to let them know, ‘Hey this is my story. If you want to play at the highest level, I can help you get there if you’re willing to do the necessary things to become an NFL player.’”