It's been well established that Mike Hull was in a car on his way out of State College in the summer of 2012 when the sanctions hit. The pull of Happy Valley, as well as his teammates and the Penn State community, turned that car around, and fans of the Nittany Lion football program couldn't be happier Hull made the choice he did.
Hull came to Penn State a part of the 2010 recruiting class, the very first one to commit to the Lions in that class--he was so gung ho on PSU that he pulled the trigger at the end of his junior year of high school, a five star stud just waiting to be next in line at Linebacker U. It took a few years before he broke out, but boy, was Hull's senior year worth the wait.
In twelve games this year, Hull has 134 tackles (73 solo) and 10.5 tackles for loss, to go with a pair of sacks and an interception; that's over twenty more tackles than the next closest tackler in the Big Ten, Michigan's Jake Ryan, and seventh nationally--all while on a top five defense loaded with future NFL talent.
Ryan, of course, is a Butkus Award finalist--along with three other players who can't come close to matching Hull's impressive stats (Washington's Hau'oli Kikaha, Miami's Denzel Perryman, and Notre Dame's Jaylon Smith), and one who has just five more tackles than him on the year (UCLA's Eric Kendricks)--though, giving credit where it's due, Kikaha lives in opponents backfields--but that's more an indictment of the style of defense, paired with Penn State's strong front four, than any sort of indictment of Hull. And when an opposing blogger says that Hull is the best linebacker in the country, despite the team he covers having a name on the then-announced semifinal list (on which Hull was also conspicuously absent), you know that it's a baffling omission.
So many weeks he was everywhere, flying to the ball out of seemingly nowhere, with closing speed, quickness and agility not seen in most MLB. And in the very rare instance if, in a play he seemed to miss a tackle, you knew the next play he'd make up for it; the running back, or receiver or quarterback or whichever offensive player was unlucky enough to have the ball, would be demolished, taken down with perfect form for little gain.
This from a guy that some of us were worried wouldn't fit into the middle linebacker slot he was shuffled to preseason. Oh, how wrong we were. In Hull, and now Bob Shoop, we trust.
I speak right now in past tense; luckily, of course, we get to see one more game of the awesomeness of Mike Hull in blue and white, in whichever bowl game is lucky enough to host this 2014 Penn State defense. Mike Hull will, no doubt, play many years to come in the league; we'll have, hopefully, may years to come of watching his impressive style of play at the next level. I'm sure I'm not alone in knowing that he'll have thousands of members of Nittany Nation rooting for him wherever he's drafted come April.
The Nittany Lions will miss his on field performance next year, but his leadership and football smarts have made him the MVP and a most worthy addition to Linebacker U.