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Lorenzo Mauldin IV has a very tough act to follow this season.

His own.

The 6-foot-4, 259-pound Sacramento, Calif., native was a bright spot last year for the Ottawa Redblacks (4-14). He posted a CFL-high 17 sacks, becoming the first Ottawa player to lead the league in sacks since Angelo Snipes (20 in ‘92).

Mauldin also had 43 tackles and two forced fumbles en route to being named the CFL’s top defensive player. Heady stuff considering the defensive lineman had 13 tackles and four sacks over two seasons (and 17 combined games) with the Hamilton Tiger-Cats.

For Mauldin, 30, the recipe for his success was very simple.

“Me being on the field, that’s all,” he said. “If I’m on the sideline I can’t do what I do, I can’t do what I’ve been training my entire off-season to do.

“I feel if you put me on the field, I’m going to make plays. I might have a game where I don’t have a sack but I did what I was supposed to. I’m a consistent player and pride myself on that.”

Mauldin certainly would’ve been a hot commodity on the CFL free-agent market. But he opted to sign a one-year extension with Ottawa in January.

“There was a chance where I really wanted to see what free agency was all about,” Mauldin said. “But I definitely wanted to get back to Ottawa and finish what I started and help give the organization an opportunity to get to a Grey Cup.

“I’m a small part of a big puzzle and want to make that probability of winning a lot higher.”

In fact, Mauldin has but two goals for 2023: Helping Ottawa win enough games to extend its season into late November, then cap it off by hoisting the Grey Cup at Tim Hortons Field.

“I don’t set goals for myself when it comes to a season because if I don’t reach them, I’ll be upset with myself,” Mauldin said. “My goal week in and week out is to win, end up playing in late November and finish the season with a W.”

Mauldin began his pro career with the New York Jets, who selected the former Louisville Cardinal in the third round of the 2015 NFL draft. He spent three seasons there before signing with Hamilton in April 2019.

Ottawa last won the Grey Cup in 2016, ending the city’s 40-year drought. But since posting an 11-7 record in 2018, the Redblacks have finished last in the East Division in each of the last three seasons, winning a combined 10 games.

Special-teams co-ordinator Bob Dyce went 1-3 as Ottawa’s interim head coach following Paul LaPolice’s departure. The highly respected Dyce, 57, of Winnipeg, became the Redblacks full-time head coach in the off-season.

“We know what we have in coach Dyce, we respect him fully,” Mauldin said. “There’s so much to learn from coach Dyce.

“I want to reciprocate everything he’s got going on from the players’ perspective.”

A repeat of Mauldin’s ‘22 performance would certainly go a long way this year for Ottawa. But consistency is more important to him than sacks and tackles totals.

“People aren’t going to want to see anything extra,” Mauldin said. “They’re going to want to see, ‘Oh, is he consistent?’

“I did that for 18 games last year and I’m planning on doing it again. It’s literally go out there and play your game, be yourself and just do your job. You hear that so much in football and it’s ‘Can I do my job week in and week out?’ I love that I did what I did (last year) but I’ll love it even more if I can do it again.”

However, Mauldin admits the ‘22 season was his most enjoyable in pro football, from a personal perspective.

“I’ve never received an accolade that high in my career,” he said. “It was the first time I ever played as a starter for an entire season.

“It definitely hit me right after the awards show and gave me a different perspective on what I need to do now. It’s not about getting 17 or 20 sacks, it’s about following up and showing I can play week in and week out, that I can go out and do what I need to do. I love this game and I’ll always be there for my brothers, my team and all of my coaches.”

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