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The future is bright for Rey Maualuga!

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Rey Maualuga has to be one of the most misunderstood players on this USC team. His penchant for being a big hitter on the field is well documented when combined with a couple of missteps early in his career at SC it has given those who either don't understand what he has been through or those who are just looking for a reason to ridicule a nice target to take shots at.

USA Today takes a closer look.

Maualuga admits that, along the way, he did some dumb, even dangerous things in his attempts to make friends or look cool or maybe even cope with something that hurt so bad he didn't know what to do.

In sixth grade, in Honolulu, he started playing football because the popular kids played football and carried their pads and helmets to school.

"I wanted to be like that," he says. "So I told the coach I wanted to play football. But it was really just so I could take my pads and helmet to school."

In junior high, in Oxnard, where the family moved as his father pursued the ministry, he was an outsider: a Samoan surrounded by Mexican-Americans.

In this day in age, fitting in can be pretty difficult. I can relate to a degree. One of the reasons that I left the military was because I didn't want my kids to constantly have to readjust every 4-5 years as I went to a new duty station. It makes it even tougher when money is tight or when a family member is sick.

That doesn't give a Maualuga a free pass for punching a fellow classmate at a party but it doesn't make him a monster either.

Rey has come a long way. He has kept out of trouble, kept up with his studies and he has now entered the home stretch of his career at USC. The future is bright for Rey, he has a great chance of being a top 10 pick if he can stay healthy and polish some the fine points of his game.

He is going to be fun to watch this season.