His four younger siblings had already been evacuated to College Station, Texas. Now it was a 12-year-old boy and his grandfather trying for two terrifying weeks to survive the wrath of Hurricane Katrina inside his reeling hometown’s Superdome.
“I’m pretty sure you heard the stories,” Arthur Maulet is saying. “Some things I don’t want to tell. Some things I don’t want to go back on. I like to keep that to myself, and that motivates me for myself, and that’s it. It’s a lot of stuff, it takes me to a place I don’t want to be.”
The only place Arthur Maulet wants to be these days is the NFL, playing cornerback for the Jets, and because of a rash of injuries, he is one unlikely starter opposite Darryl Roberts on the eve of Thursday night’s preseason game in Atlanta.
“I pride myself on nobody’s gonna work harder than me, and nobody’s gonna push me more than I push myself, and I’m not gonna break, because I had plenty of chances to break in the past. I had plenty of chances to make excuses,” Maulet says.
You bet he did.
Maulet grew up in a humble home in New Orleans’ Ninth Ward.
“It’s good or bad,” Maulet says. “The whole block’s your family, everybody can discipline you. Your neighbor could give you a butt-whupping, and then you go tell your grandpa, and then it’s like, ‘Oh, I’m glad she did that to you.’ ”
The bad was bad.
“It was the ghetto, man,” he says. “I didn’t have what everybody else had. Sometimes we didn’t eat, sometimes we had to share.
“One bedroom. Bunk beds. Everybody stayed in one room, all our siblings. It was a living room my grandad stayed in. There were two rooms, that’s it, and one bathroom. So we built on an addition to our house so we can have something.
“And then Katrina hits, and everything gets washed away.”
Too many lives.
“It was chaos, man, a lot of stuff went on, moving around state to state,” Maulet says. “We had moved to Ann Arbor, Michigan. A church funded us a house out there. Was out there for a year-and-a-half, the church stopped funding us.”
He returned to New Orleans and played his junior year at Bonnabel High School. But only his junior year.
“My senior year comes, I turn 19 — 18 as a senior you can play, 19 you can’t,” Maulet said.
A man named Donald Cox, who had been an assistant at Bonnabel, would briefly take in Maulet. Maulet then walked on at Copiah-Lincoln Community College.
“I was by myself a lot,” Maulet said. “I had a cellphone, that’s it. I didn’t have a car. I’m in Wesson, Mississippi, it’s one red light, diner closes at 6:30. It’s a commuter college so on Thursdays everybody leaves and I’m there by myself. I don’t know nobody. So I go in the [cafeteria], I eat breakfast. That’s the only hot meal I have, and they pack me up lunch for the rest of the weekend.”
And so began his Eat Greedy credo.
“All I had was those to-go boxes,” Maulet said. “And on that field, I had to be greedy and I had to find a way to get out of there.”
He got to the University of Memphis, then to the Saints for six games as an undrafted free agent.
“It was a blessing, man,” Maulet said.
And a distraction as well.
“It taught me how to keep business business and keep family family,” Maulet said.
He was a Colt for five games last season. Now the Jets.
“A great opportunity,” Maulet said.
A great drive.
“Have you ever heard the last name Maulet? Besides mine?” Maulet asks. “I want people to know my family. I want people to know that last name. You heard of Hendersons, you heard of this, you heard of that. I feel like I’m the man to start the generation off, and I’m putting it on my shoulders and I’m gonna work to accomplish that.”
How often does he think back to Katrina?
“Not too often. I don’t live in the past. I live in the future. I mean, it’s a blessing that I survived it,” Maulet says, “and a blessing that all my family survived and we didn’t lose anybody.”