Big tests await Penn State linebacker Mauti
College Football Videos
The NFL Scouting Combine is most associated with the 40-yard dash and other physical tests, but the interview process is also a major component of the evaluation extravaganza that starts Wednesday.
Michael Mauti delivered the essence of what he will tell NFL coaches and general managers in Indianapolis when he answered a question about where he is after suffering a knee injury that ended his decorated Penn State career last November.
“There's no doubt in my mind that I will be ready to play at a high level again,” Mauti said.
Mauti will spend the next couple of months trying to convince NFL teams of that.
He has to hope a body of work that made Mauti arguably one of the most significant figures in Penn State sports history is enough to offset the reality that he likely won't be able to run for teams before the draft in late April.
And what will really challenge NFL teams when putting a draft grade on Mauti: He is working his way back from a third serious knee injury in the last five years.
“I've done it twice now, and I'm going to do it again,” Mauti said of making a comeback. “No one was talking about it (in 2012) — the fact that I was coming off an injury, and my play spoke for itself.”
If anyone can convince coaches and general managers that a perceived negative is actually a positive, it is Mauti.
His force of personality, punctuated by a flinty stare and jutted jaw, helped keep Penn State together last July after the NCAA hit the football program with severe sanctions and allowed players to transfer without penalty.
Mauti then enjoyed a season for the ages in helping Penn State overcome an 0-2 start and become one of college football's stories of the year. A knee injury suffered after a low block against Indiana ended Mauti's season in the next-to-last game.
He still was named Big Ten Linebacker of the Year after recording 96 tackles and intercepting three passes in 11 games. And Penn State coach Bill O'Brien said the team that gambles on Mauti — that will presumably come in the latter part of the seven-round draft — will get a bargain.
“He's a football player,” said O'Brien, who spent 2007-12 with the Patriots before taking his current job. “He's just a great teammate, a great locker room guy. He's the exact opposite of a prima donna. That's why I think somebody should take a chance on him.”
ESPN draft analyst Mel Kiper Jr. said Mauti, who made several All-American teams in 2012, likely would have been a second-round pick if not for suffering the second major injury to his left knee in as many years. Teams now have to project whether Mauti, who would play inside linebacker in a 3-4 defense and outside in a 4-3 scheme, will return as strong as ever.
“He's a warrior, and it's a shame he had the injuries,” Kiper said. “The bloodlines are there, the toughness, the leadership.”
Mauti's father, Rich, played wide receiver in the NFL for eight seasons, seven of them with the Saints. Mauti is leaving nothing to chance in trying to follow his father's path from Penn State to the NFL.
He is training with former Penn State teammate Mike Zordich at Xcel Sports Performance outside of New Orleans and regularly working out as many as six hours a day.
The 6-foot-2, 240-pounder has added muscle and lowered his body fat, and Mauti does squats and power cleans as part of his lifting regimen.
Mauti declined to talk about the exact nature of his injury — he won't run at the Combine and is unlikely to do so at Penn State's Pro Day — but he said it is becoming less of an issue with each passing day.
“You wouldn't know this kid has had a knee injury at all,” said Jason DeMelo, the director of performace at Xcel Sports Performance. “He's killing everything. He just works hard, heals quickly.”
DeMelo has some expertise on the subject.
He worked with Mauti the previous two times the linebacker suffered season-ending knee injuries at Penn State. DeMelo said he also expects Mauti, who will participate in the 225-pound bench press at the Combine, to come back stronger.
“The kid's got unbelievable heart,” DeMelo said.
Mauti tried to reinforce that point to NFL teams when he wrote a letter to every general manager in the league explaining how much playing at football's highest level means to him. Mauti downplayed the letter-writing campaign that the NFL Network reported to his surprise last month, and he was reluctant to talk in depth about it because he didn't want it to come across as self-serving.
“I wanted to let people in the NFL know I was going to be ready to play,” Mauti said, “and I plan on playing in the fall.”
Show commenting policy
TribLive commenting policy
You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.
We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.
While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.
We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers.
We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.
We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.
We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.
We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.
- Liriano strikes out 12, leads Pirates past Mets
- Pirates notebook: Substance rule a sticky subject
- Vietnam veterans recall their service — and those who didn’t make it home
- Montoya passes Power on final lap to win Indy 500
- War memories remain strong for 94-year-old Manorville veteran
- Outdoor notices: May 25, 2015
- Unquestionable courage & sacrifice
- Connellsville board set to tackle budget
- Motorcyclist killed after striking pole in Penn Township
- His memories of WWII are more than ‘Slightly Dangerous’
- Ex-Baldwin, Pitt star Pinkston not giving up on NFL dream