FORT WORTH — In his four years at TCU, defensive end Stansly Maponga has seen lots of changes.
"Four years ago, the weight room we used to have and what we have now is state of the art, I mean, it’s just incredible,” Maponga said.
Recently, Maponga faced the toughest decision of his life. He had two options: Stay at TCU one more year, or make himself available for the NFL draft.
He chose to go pro.
"The whole family was behind me when I made that decision for me to get out," Maponga said. "It kind of took me a little longer than I thought it would just to make sure that I made the right decision for me and my family.
Maponga's decision hinged on two very important people in his life. The Carrollton Hebron product wants to provide a better life for his daughter, who is only four months old. He also wants to help his mother, Barbara Green, who brought him and four other siblings to the United States from southern Africa.
"Just watching her day in and day out and just watching her struggle," Maponga said. "Sometimes she'd get sick and sometimes she'd go to the hospital, and the doctors were telling her that she's working too hard. She needs to lay off a little bit. She's a hard-working woman, and she didn't care about her health; as long as we were living good, she was good, too."
Barbara Green has worked three jobs just to support her family.
"I always love working with people," Green said. She's working two jobs now and is also trying to better herself by attending classes at Brookhaven College to become a medical assistant.
"I like my job," Green said. "Taking care of patients, I just love it. Even if you become millionaires or billionaires, I'll still have to work. Even I work three days or two days, as long as I'm doing what I love. I love doing that."
"It was high time for me just to be like, 'Mom, you worked hard enough,'" Maponga said. "'It's time for you to just take a breather and I'll be able to take care of you from this point on.'"
Maponga is also a long way from his first home. He was born in Zimbabwe and came to the United States at the age of 9. It wasn't long before America's version of football caught his eye.
"Since seventh grade, I’ve been loving it," Maponga said. "Just loving the game, the violence. It takes my mind off stuff. It’s just crazy, man."
"At first I never wanted to go watch him play, because when I see them bumping into each other, I’m like 'Oh my God, my stomach!'" Green said. "Most of the time I just look down. I make sure I go with one of my people so at least they'll be watching for me and I'll be asking them, 'How did he do?' They'll be like, 'He did very well. He did good. He did great,' so I think I’m getting used to it now."
How high Maponga will go in the NFL draft isn't clear. He was limited at the NFL Combine because he's still recovering from an injury sustained last fall, a bone fracture in his left foot.
"I don't feel any pain, but word around the league right now is that my bone is kind of soft right now and it might not break right now, but it might break later," Maponga said. "So I've got to set up an appointment with Dr. Anderson. There's going to be ups and downs, but you've just got to be thankful for being in this situation."
"They're supposed to put a screw in there," he added. "I didn't end up putting a screw in there because my bone healed perfectly, and it hasn't given me any issues."
Becoming a top 100 pick as a defensive end or a linebacker is certainly not out of the question, but because of the lingering injury, Maponga's stock has dropped.
"I’m not mad at them for that, but for me, I love proving people wrong," he said "People tell me I can't do this or I can't do that. It’s been happening to me since I was in high school."
Maponga said he will return to TCU to finish his communications degree, but isn't sure how that degree will be used after football.
"You can do various stuff, maybe SportsCenter... you never know, we'll see," Maponga said.