LOUISVILLE, KY (WAVE) - In a Cardinal uniform University of Louisville linebacker Lorenzo Mauldin makes amazing plays with star teammates DeVante Parker, Dominique Brown and Kai De La Cruz. Thursday night he stood with them in cap and gown alongside UofL President James Ramsey at the KFC Yum! Center.
But leaving Louisville may be especially tough for Mauldin. The men on the field are his family because he doesn't have one watching from the stands.
It's a story that gained national attention, but it's one many people knew little about until Mauldin was hurt on his moped last season.
Louisville Metro police said in 2013 Mauldin was on Floyd Street when a hit-and-run driver who wasn't paying attention crashed into him and took off.
The coaches rushed to the hospital and gushed about Mauldin.
Former Louisville Offensive Coordinator Shawn Watson said then of Mauldin, "The players and all the coaches alike just have a dear love and affection for him."
He said kids like Mauldin are the reason why coaches coach.
"He's a great story," Watson said. "He's had to overcome such great adversity in his life and he's an outstanding person first."
Mauldin, who grew up in a dangerous part of East Atlanta, hasn't seen his father since he was two years old. His mother had a drug problem and he became the parent of his four younger siblings. Mauldin's mother went to jail and the children were separated. After that he lived in 16 foster homes and two group homes.
"Just growing up in that type of environment, I didn't think I would make it out of there, but with a lot of praying and a lot of wishes, good wishes I can say, I made it," Mauldin said.
At 6'4'' and 245 pounds, football was his ticket out. Knowing him as a brother, his teammates weren't surprised when the team captain - and always positive cheerleader - referred to the hit and run accident as something positive.
"It's a blessing," Mauldin said. "God has given me the opportunity to live another day, to be able to get me to this point and time in my life where I can just say thank you."
He also thanked the coaches and staff who pushed academics, putting him in a place that as a young man he never thought he'd reach.
Mauldin said, "I can't thank them enough right now, just for getting me to this point and time in my life."
Mauldin earned a degree in Communications from UofL, as more than 50 Cardinal student athletes past and present picked up their diplomas.