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Nigel Maynard Learns from Veterans to Develop into Next Pitt DB to the NFL



Nigel Maynard. Pitt Football

PITTSBURGH — Freshman defensive back Nigel Maynard just arrived on campus at the start of the calendar year, but he has already begun his journey to develop as another player at his position to go from Pitt football to the NFL.

Maynard hails from Murfreesboro, Tenn., a city of around 130,000 people, just 34 miles southeast of Nashville. He played high school football for Stewarts Creek in the nearby town of Smyrna, where he excelled a number of positions, including safety, cornerback and wide receiver.

He made 47 tackles, three for loss, and three interceptions his senior season in 2023, helping Stewarts Creek make the Tennessee Class 6A Playoffs. His play earned him a number of accolades, including No. 23 in The Tennessean Class of 2024 Top 100, Tennessee Sports Writers Association (TSWA) All-Class 6A and a spot in the Tennessee East-West All-Star Classic.

While Pitt fans know western Pennsylvania as an incredibly competitive area for football, Maynard has come to Pitt to prove that Tennessee is also a great part of the country with some of the best talent too.

“It’s competitive,” Nigel Maynard said last Wednesday morning at UPMC Rooney Sports Complex on the Southside. “We some dogs. Where I played at, there were some guys out there. It was us and it was probably the Memphis area, my area and Memphis, where you gon’ get your dogs at.”

Maynard had Pitt in his top three schools early on last spring and then committed to the program in June, soon after taking another visit, cancelling one he had with Michigan.

Two of the coaches he became close with are the ones he will work with throughout his time as a Panther: secondary coach Archie Collins and safeties coach Cory Sanders.

Those relationships continue to grow throughout his short time at Pitt, as he learns to work at the college level and develop into a professional.

“Teaching me new techniques,” Maynard said. “New techniques, that’s probably the hardest thing. I was working at it just a couple minutes ago outside. Just trying to get right for spring ball. Perfecting my craft on them techniques and pressing linemen.”

Much of the allure for defensive backs to come play for Pitt is the “pipeline” to the NFL since head coach Pat Narduzzi took over in 2015.

This is due to the scheme that Narduzzi, a defensive-minded coach, enforces, which puts defensive backs on wide receivers with little help, forcing them to adjust and perform to the best of their own ability to stay strong in coverage.

NFL defensive backs from the program that played under him include Avonte Maddox (Philadelphia Eagles), Jordan Whitehead (New York Jets) Damar Hamlin and Dane Jackson (Buffalo Bills), Jason Pinnock (New York Giants), Damarri Mathis (Denver Broncos) Erick Hallett II (Jacksonville Jaguars) and Brandon Hill (Houston Texans).

“It was very attractive to me,” Maynard said. “You want to go to the league, that’s why I’m here right? I wanna play ball so, my coach putting people in the league, Imma trust what he is saying and trust the process.”

To achieve those lofty goals, he is working with the veterans in the group, particularly redshirt senior Rashad Battle, who he credits with helping him to learn the playbook and working on his technique.

“Honestly, the older guys, they’re just telling me, do everything,” Nigel Maynard said. “Little things, the details. Any time you get extra work, do extra work. I’m just going to do what they tell me because they’re trying to get to that spot too.”

Maynard is quite young, just 17 years old, and won’t turn 18 until July. Despite his age, he will have great opportunities to excel at cornerback almost immediately. A.J. Woods and Marquis Williams both graduated, and M.J. Devonshire chose to enter the NFL Draft following this past season, meaning all three cornerback spots are open for Pitt football.

The opportunity to start early is one that any true freshman would love to have, but Maynard is staying grounded and is thriving in the competition, along with the other Panthers defensive backs.

“Yeah, I mean, we always competing,” Maynard said. “It’s football. Every position room gon’ compete, but we always competing. Trying to make each other better too at the same time. We just want to see each other win.”

The adjustment to college life has come quite easily for Maynard. He is one of nine mid-year enrollees for Pitt football, joining He joins defensive linemen in Sincere Edwards, Francis Brewu and Zachary Crothers, linebacker Jeremiah Marcelin, offensive lineman Moritz Schmoranzer, quarterback Julian Dugger, running back Juelz Goff and wide receiver Cameron Monteiro.

He has bonded the most with all of his fellow freshmen, but especially those on the defensive side of the ball. Throughout all of it, he’s continuing to improve on and off the field and great credit goes to his coaches, allowing for the easy adjustment.

“My coaches have been teaching me details,” Nigel Maynard said on his growth so far. “Areas where receivers will drop their hip and make a move in certain areas like that where you just got to key in on when you’re playing. The game at first is fast, but if you get all the details, the game will turn slow and you’re going to start making plays.”

Pitt fans should expect to see the talents that Maynard has this upcoming spring game and the season to come. He’s a fearless player, with great speed and aggression needed for any true Pitt defensive back. His selfless attitude and belief in his abilities will prove vital for not just becoming a fan favorite, but a truly great player for the next few seasons with the program.

“Honestly how I play, I would say, really I’m just a playmaker on the ball,” Maynard said. “See, in high school, my last two years, I played safety. So I was really coming down, they had me coming down. I was hitting and they had me in coverage too. I would man up on the best receiver anytime we played. So really, I could do zone, I could do man, I could tackle, whatever they need me to be, I’ll do it.”

Sandy Schall, Coldwell Banker
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