Oh, you didn't know?
Before 2012, Michael Mauti hadn't made much of a dent in the athletics history of the Pennsylvania State University. A second generation athlete and the third Mauti to play for the Nittany Lions, Mauti had struggled to be the player that everyone expected him to be. After graduating high school in 2008, Mauti had the bloodlines and the recruiting hype to turn into one of the great Penn State linebackers. As a true freshman, he played in every single game during Penn State's Big Ten Championship season, and was expected to earn a starting spot as a sophomore alongside Sean Lee and NaVorro Bowman. But just weeks before the season opener, Mauti tore his anterior cruciate ligament in his right knee. That injury would sideline him for the 2009 season.
In 2010, a redshirted and rehabbed Mauti was productive. He finished fifth on the team in tackles with 67, started seven games, and was named Big Ten Player of the Week for his performance against the Northwestern Wildcats. The Louisiana product was back on pace to become Linebacker U's next breakout star for the 2011 campaign, and for four games he was exactly that. But against Eastern Michigan, Mauti tore his ACL in his other knee, sending him back to the sidelines for another season.
With three years of eligibility behind him and the Penn State scandal staring him in the face Mauti did what you would expect any future great to do. With Michael Zordich, Gerald Hodges, Jordan Hill, Matt McGloin, and the team's other seniors, Mauti rallied the troops. He presented himself as the leader of Linebacker U, the role model in a group of players attempting to find their identities in a new system, with new coaches, and expectations that were far below standard. Mauti promised the public that the team would represent Penn State well in the face of adversity.
He couldn't have been more right.
Leading the way for a dominant and nationally ranked defense, Mauti finished his senior season in style - 95 total tackles, four tackles for loss, 2.5 sacks, three interceptions, and three forced fumbles. Despite missing his final collegiate game with a third serious knee injury, Mauti was named a consensus First Team All-American, First Team All-Big Ten, and won the Butkus-Fitzgerald Award given to the conference’s top linebacker.
So, what are you getting with Michael Mauti?
First and foremost, leadership. When scandal came crashing down on the program and other players chose to run west, Mauti stayed and inspired his teammates to greatness. On the strength of a single season, Mauti catapulted himself into the pantheon of greatness at Linebacker U. For four seasons, Mauti's unfortunate injuries destroyed Nittany Nation's expectations for him. Now, he's remembered alongside Onkotz, Ham, Conlan, Arrington, and Posluszny. That's quite a group.
Outside of that, you'll get talent. NFL.com's draft preview notes that he is a "tremendously instinctual player who is poised in both the run and pass game," that he is "fundamentally sound" with "strong leadership qualities." Who could argue with that?
As for the drawbacks? The injury history is a significant concern. Mauti tore knee ligaments three times in the past four years - twice in his left knee, once in his right knee. He's also tweaked his shoulder. These concerns understandably leave some NFL general managers wondering if he can make it as a special teams player; it leaves others wondering if he can make the league at all.
Given his injuries, Mauti didn't work out at the NFL Combine. He did, however, meet with the media.
If that didn't convince NFL general managers, perhaps this will.
If that's not enough, this should be.
That's what you're getting from Michael Mauti - a leader, a winner, and a legend.
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