One might think that fame comes easily to a professional athlete, and while 9 times out of 10, that may be true, it wasn’t quite the case for Aaron Maybin. I was always aware of him as an NFL football player, mainly because I’m a Madden fanatic and at one point in time he played for my favorite team the New York Jets. But it was during HBO’s Hard Knocks series with the Cincinnati Bengals where Maybin really stood out. While he didn’t make the team, he did leave his mark.
He showed that he was hungry; not the type of hunger in that ferocious football sense where a 6’4, 237-pound linebacker would shred through an offensive line at the chance of decapitating a quarterback. Maybin’s days of racking up 12 sacks like he did in his final collegiate season at Penn State are possibly over. During his four-season career, he posted 6 sacks and 5 forced fumbles; not very impressive for someone drafted with the 11th pick in the NFL Draft in which the word “bust” might quickly follow the name Aaron Maybin when a Google search is performed. But all that is trivial because Maybin’s hunger, while metaphoric, went beyond football, it revealed his true passion, a passion that may be frowned upon simply because the appeal of being an NFL football player would be more acceptable. Aaron Maybin passion is art.
He states, “people struggle to understand that art has always been apart of me.” “I finally have the balls to go out and be an artist full-time. Now I have the time to work on all the projects that I would usually set to the side.”
Let’s interrupt Aaron from creating to see why art has always been apart of him and discuss his creations, football and everything else in between.
Did your appearance on HBO’s Hard Knocks help your career as an artist?
Aaron Maybin: It didn’t help me out too much in the art world. But I would say it helped my social platform and that’s evident with this interview as well as others in the Hip-Hop community and those in mainstream America who aren’t necessarily apart of the art community getting a chance to see another side of me.
If you gave brief intro on who Aaron Maybin is, how would that sound?
AM: I introduce myself as an artist before anything else. Mainly because that’s the truest aspect of my personality.
Is safe to say you associate yourself more so an artist than a football?
AM: I think that something the general public is now starting to realize. I was creating art, way before I picked up a football. Before I got started with football, people knew me as an artist. I was the kid in the hood that was drawing, creating, and sculpting and building rather than doing all the other things my friends were doing. The artist side of me started early, I was just blessed to catch on as a athlete but the art was alway apart of my life. When I was younger, I went to private school before my mother passed since things got rocky for my family financially, so when I went public school, they had athletic teams, art schools don’t have sport teams. So from a young age, I was put in a comprising position because of the interests I had. And while in college, I was double-majored in sports broadcast journalism and also integrative arts.
When you were younger, what type of reception did you get from your friends when they found out about your interest in art?
AM: Well it still happens today. Anything that people don’t typically understand, they tend to have a problem with and they tend to portray that person as an outcast. My interests were different from a lot of my peers at a young age and when they saw that, they kind of resented it and made fun of it. But when I caught on as an athlete I noticed I started getting a pass and athletically, I was pretty much good at anything I played, and that’s what they knew me as, what they introduced me as. Sports rationalized my reasoning for being in the in-crowd.
Among your NFL peers, has your passion for football ever been questioned because of how passionate you are about art?
AM: All the time. I believe that’s something people really never understood as far as the NFL went. But I think that was alway going to be the case with me knowing from a young age, that I wanted to be both. I saw a picture at a young age of one of my favorite artists, Jean Michel Basquiat, wearing a football helmet. I will remember the image to this day. He was wearing a football helmet that he had written Aaron on, and that was so powerful to me at that point in time. Here’s an artist, that as soon as I started showing an interest and talent in art, my teacher started telling me about him, then goes and show me a picture of him in a helmet, that has my name on it. And truthfully, that spoke volumes to me because I couldn’t think of any other famous person named Aaron. But then I met one of Basquiat’s mentors, who informed me that Basquiat was paying homage to Hank Aaron but he was so unconventional with his style that he chose a football helmet to mess with people heads.
It would be an understatement to say your life has been easy. But dealing with tragic events in your life, would you say that those moments inspire some of your artwork?
AM: Always. But that’s with any artist. Anytime an artist goes through something, you’ll see some of their best creative work stems from the depths they traveled in their life and all that pain and adversity. It’s what people can identify with because it’s something everyone goes through. Everyone experiences lost, pain, love and lust. We all identify with these things. So when it’s so vividly expressed in their work, it’s easy to relate to because it’s something about you that’s reaching out to that person. And I try to be transparent and open. I don’t necessarily talk about my feelings with people but it’s in my work. Anyone that’s ever dated an artist, would say, “well you wanna be miserable, you wanna go through all this sh!t, so you can travel to those dark depths.” But really, in my case, it’s just the ability to hold a mirror up and being honest, allowing that to speak to people.
Which one of your pieces would you say you identify the most with?
AM: It’s a lot of pieces that I put so much of myself into, it’s hard to say which one I identify with the most. I have a lot of statement pieces where if I was asked about it, I can vividly say what was going through my mind but it’s hard to zero on one.
What are you currently working on?
AM: We got a documentary that we’ve been filming for the past 5 years, that we’ll be releasing this year on my birthday, April 6th. It’s titled Breaking Out of the Box and it talks about some of the questions you asked before about how it’s hard for people to see me a both an athlete and an artist. Their reactions and the troubles I deal with. We’ve been filming it for a long time but this past year it’s been great just because of the freedom I’ve had to go out and tackle these projects. There’s my companies Art Cxlt and Raison D’etre; we also have a couple of music projects with artists that’s a affiliated with the company and the clothing line is doing well. I also just finished a commission I was doing with ESPN and Disney.
With everything you have your hands in, what would you say your goals are for the future?
AM: I just wanna be able to say I’m living my life exactly the way I wanna live it and enjoy every minute of it. While I’m on my way there, these past few months I’ve taken some big steps in taking a leap of faith of going out on my own as an artist and really experiencing life and some of the things I never had the chance to experience before. I still have some goals that I haven’t reached yet and I have such an obsessive personality that I’m obsessive about those goals. So we’re kinda in overdrive mode until we bring those projects to a close. But I’m at the point where I feel happiness is right around the corner.
When you’re not creating what other hobbies do you have?
AM: First of all, I’m always creating. There’s never point where I’m not creating. I always have a sketch book and/or a camera. But when I’m not in paint mode and that kinda stuff, I’m just an average dude.
Where would you say you stand with football?
AM: Honestly who knows. I know myself enough to know, I wouldn’t be able to make a definite decision this year. I didn’t plan on going out to Canada and playing this year but I did. When I made the decision that I wasn’t entertaining anymore offers from the NFL, I was officially done for the year. I was suppose to go and meet with a team, and the morning I was suppose to, I just go really emotionally and I woke up and I was playing with my son, then got my bags and I was ready to roll out and all these thoughts and emotions started going through my head. Then it just hit and I realized I wasn’t going to be happy playing football if I got on the flight and I decided I was just going to focus on art for the rest of the year. But when the Toronto Argonauts reach out to me, telling about the work schedule, and how I’d have the opportunity to play and go into the studio in the city and paint for the rest of the day, I was all with it. So I went to Toronto and cleared my head and reevaluated the situation and got the chance to experience some great things. It was refreshing, but we’ll see. I’m 25, no one would believe if I said I was retiring anyways.
In closing, Maybin states, “if you’re going to do anything, do it for the right reasons and do it with 110%. That’s part of the reason I walked away from a game that pays people millions of dollars. In order to make a leap of faith that, I know this (art) is something that is in me. Something I can’t live without doing, I refuse to live without art and I believe that so deeply I was willing to walk away from the NFL.”