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Only Michael Mauti Until Penn State Football

With all apologies to Troy Reeder, there's only one person today was going to be.

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You guys all know the story of Michael Mauti. Came to Penn State a legacy four star recruit, the #1 player in the state of Louisiana in the 2008 recruiting class. He was on campus for a visit with his dad, letter winner former PSU and Saints wider receiver Rich Mauti, when he sat down with Joe Paterno and committed on the spot, much to his father's chagrin.

What followed was the stuff of legends.

Mauti was an early enrollee, and played in every game his true freshman year in 2008; his special teams hit against Michigan, forcing a fumble, early on in that game shifted momentum when the Nittany Lions were down, and Penn State went on to rout the Wolverines en route to a Big Ten Championship season. But, then...the injuries.

His early progress was derailed when Mauti tore his first ACL in August 2009, forcing him to redshirt that entire season. He came back as a redshirt sophomore in 2010, playing in 11 games and helping anchor a defense that kept together an otherwise underwhelming team, finishing the season with 66 tackles (32 solo). He started the first four games of his redshirt junior year, 2011, and was on his way to leading the team in tackles; that preseason, he was named a preseason All-American by multiple publications, and to the Nagurski and Butkus watch lists. But then, in the fourth game of the year against Eastern Michigan, he tore his ACL again.

What happened later in 2011 is well documented, and won't be rehashed here. But suffice it to say, we may not be where we are today at Penn State, on field and off, were it not for Michael Mauti:

Mauti and bff Michael Zordich rallied the troops, and Mauti himself was a force his redshirt senior year. Teammate Gerald Hodges had stepped up in Mauti's absence in 2011, and the two playing next to each other were quite a force. Mauti had 96 stops (49 solo) in 11 games on the year to go along with three interceptions (including one oh-so-close to a 98 yard touchdown return at Illinois) before a vicious chop block at Indiana sidelined him for the final game of the season.

That spring, Mauti was drafted in the 7th round (213 overall) by the Minnesota Vikings, despite not being able to participate in most pre-draft activities due to his injury. He remains on the Vikings squad, along with Hodges, primarily seeing time on special teams but with many scouts seeing him poised to have a breakout year in 2015.

It's not very often that a current player inspires such loyalty in his fellow teammates that they wear his number on his helmet in the last game of the year when he goes down with his third (!!) torn ACL in his collegiate career and can't play, and his fellow linebacker standout wears his jersey. That's truly a special player.