We've seen Sam Maxwell only in small doses so far in his University of Kentucky career.
He played in 12 games off the bench as a true freshman, but there weren't many reps to be had playing behind star linebacker Wesley Woodyard. He played in all 26 games the last two seasons but was stuck behind starters Micah Johnson, Braxton Kelley and Johnny Williams.
But when Maxwell has worked his way onto the field, he's managed to make plays. He had six tackles and a tackle for loss in the landmark win over No. 1 Louisiana State two years ago and had a key interception in the second overtime against Tennessee that same year. Last season, Maxwell recorded a sack against Georgia, had five tackles against both Alabama and Florida and forced a fumble against the Gators.
Still, the senior from Hartwell, Ga. is not one of the six players featured on the UK media guide, and while he'll finally be a full-time starter in his final year in the program, he's not one of the more recognizable names or faces on the roster.
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"The only people that probably know Sam Maxwell are the True Blue fans who know every little thing about the team," Maxwell said. "I'm not a household name or out there on posters or anything like that, but the people who really watch UK football know that I've played a big part and made some plays. But I do want to get my name out there to other folks so when you do think UK football, Sam Maxwell will be one of the names you think of."
Johnson, an All-America candidate, is back at middle linebacker for his senior season. But he will be flanked by two new faces in sophomore Danny Trevathan, who's drawn raves for his speed and playmaking ability, and Maxwell.
Maxwell has 58 career tackles and 81/2 tackles for loss, not bad numbers for a part-time player. Now he's ready to see what he can do on a full-time basis.
"I feel like this is the year that I have the breakout season that I've been waiting on," Maxwell said. "It's been tough waiting. There are times when you're thinking that you really want to play, and you get down, but you've got to know that everybody plays a part. Some just play bigger ones than others. But the coaches kept telling me to keep practicing and working hard and my time will come, and I feel like it's here now."
UK linebackers coach Chuck Smith said Maxwell had a great showing in UK's first fall scrimmage.
"He's waited his turn, and I know he's going to take advantage of it," Smith said. "He's eager. He's hungry."
Smith said he's hoping that, in time, Maxwell and Trevathan can find the same chemistry that Kelley and Williams had alongside Johnson.
"It takes practice to get used to working in a groove with each other," Smith said. "All three of them are sort of getting in the groove. You start getting to know each other's trigger terms and things to watch and (be) alert for. They're really starting to gel together. Braxton, Johnny and Micah, they had played together for a long time and knew the body language. They learned to work together and off each other."
Johnson is the star and Trevathan a potential star of the future. And while Maxwell is eager for a breakthrough, he also knows a place where everybody knows his name.
"In football you've always got guys who stand out behind the scenes," Maxwell said. "Everybody in the locker room knows the guys who can play."