Nick Maddox: Youth to Power

via Tallahassee Magazine

One might expect former NFL player Nick Maddox to decorate his office with football trophies and sports memorabilia. Instead, the youngest African-American male elected to the Leon County Commission has opted for photos of past African-American leaders in the county and African masks that represent serenity and strength.

Maddox was elected last fall at the age of 29 (he’s since turned 30) to an at-large seat on the Leon County Commission, unseating incumbent Cliff Thaell, who had held the job for 16 years. His election surprised some because of his youth and political inexperience.

His self-assuredness and manner give no hint of the troubled family life that marked his early years. Born the youngest of four in the small city of Shelby, N.C., he lived in a crowded home with no father figure, in a situation that became hurtful and traumatizing.

When he was seven, his mother found herself struggling to care for her children and two new additions to the family that came when both of his sisters became pregnant at the same time. His mother found solace in drugs and eventually left Maddox to care for himself.

“I was stuck in a situation where she had to decide whether she wanted to keep me or not. And she decided to let me go,” he said.

His aunt, Patricia Maddox, came to his rescue.

“My life changed from that point on. She has been a profound influence on my life, and we have a really special relationship.”

Patricia Maddox introduced him to the sport that helped shaped his life. “I remember her saying that she refused to allow me to just sit in the house,” he said. “She made me pick a sport. That is when football came into my life.”

Describing himself as an introvert, Maddox found it difficult to trust others. But once someone gained his trust, he viewed that person as his family, particularly those he met through football. “Although I didn’t call them Dad, my coaches became a father figure and my teammates became my brothers,” he explained.

Maddox came to Tallahassee, where he attended Florida State University, played football, joined Omega Psi Phi fraternity and worked toward bachelor’s degrees in business and real estate. He spent three years as a running back in the NFL, playing for the Cleveland Browns and the Carolina Panthers.

After an ankle injury, he decided to return to Tallahassee to finish his undergraduate degrees, a promise he made to his aunt. He was surprised to find that he enjoyed the anonymity of college life, away from the glare of the NFL spotlight. He is married and he and his wife, Tina, have an infant daughter.

Being a football player mentally prepared him, Maddox said, for the Leon County Commission seat.

“There are six other individuals on this commission who have opinions and thought processes and have to make a decision as well,” he said. “You can be biased while believing that you run everything — but that isn’t true. You have to learn to work with other people, as a team.”

Maddox has learned, through his time in Tallahassee, that this is one of the best cities to raise a family because “you don’t have to worry about your kids — they are safe here.”

Although he has plans that he would like to accomplish in his personal life, he feels he must put them on the back burner for now to focus on the people who voted for him.

Creating more jobs and encouraging businesses to relocate to Tallahassee are two of Maddox’s many goals.

As a relative youngster on the commission, Maddox admits the pressure is high but he is determined to prove his lack of experience won’t get in the way of improving Leon County.

“Any time a citizen votes for you, they’re taking a chance and with that chance they are expecting you to represent them well,” he said. “When the people voted for me, I believe they saw someone who had the passion to help people — someone who wanted change.” 

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