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Penn State football notebook: Farrell hoping to seize NFL opportunity

| Sunday, April 28, 2013, 11:48 p.m.
Barry Reeger | Tribune-Review
Penn State quarterback Matthew McGloin (11) celebrates a touchdown run with Mike Farrell (78) and Zach Zwinak (28) against Northwestern during a game Saturday, Oct. 6, 2012, at Beaver Stadium in University Park.

Former Penn State offensive tackle Mike Farrell had little contact with the Steelers leading up to the NFL Draft. So imagine his surprise when he got a call from Steelers offensive line coach Jack Bicknell on Saturday near the end of the NFL Draft.

That conversation eventually led to Farrell signing with the Steelers as an undrafted free agent, and put him in a position to play for his hometown team. Farrell, who started at right and left tackle last season for Penn State, signed with the Steelers on Saturday night after receiving interest from a handful of teams.

Rookies and first-year players will take part in minicamp practices that start Friday at the Steelers' South Side headquarters.

“It's been pretty amazing,” Farrell said Sunday, “and it makes me more anxious to get to work.”

The Shady Side Academy graduate didn't just pick the Steelers because he grew up rooting for them. The Steelers didn't draft any offensive linemen — they signed six, including former West Virginia center Joe Madsen, as undrafted free agents — and they need depth along the offensive line.

Farrell's familiarity with the Steelers goes beyond his growing up in Pittsburgh.

He is a former high school teammate and good friend of Dan Rooney, the son of president Art Rooney II. Dan Rooney, who works for the NFL in New York, was among the many people who called Farrell to congratulate him after signing with the Steelers.

He also heard from former Penn State teammates who hail from Western Pennsylvania and met up with Adam Gress, a West Mifflin graduate, after signing with the Steelers. Gress is projected to take over at right tackle for Farrell this season, and the two are close friends.

“They're pretty excited,” Farrell said of a group that includes family members, former teammates and friends. “It just so happens (the Steelers) could be a good fit for me. I think once I get to work, it will all sink in.”

No hard feelings

The NCAA sanctions that punished players who had nothing to do with the Jerry Sandusky scandal fueled former Penn State outside linebacker Michael Mauti's fire in 2012. So too did the presence of Illinois assistant coaches on Penn State's campus after the NCAA allowed players to transfer without penalty.

But Mauti said he won't take any extra motivation with him to Minnesota even though he didn't get taken until the seventh round of the draft.

“This is business,” said Mauti, who led Penn State to an 8-4 record last season and was named the Big Ten's outstanding linebacker. “It's nothing personal.”

Mauti lasted until the 213th pick of the draft because he tore the ACL in his left knee in November and sustained three such injuries while at Penn State. Mauti said he made such progress since having reconstructive knee injury that he doesn't plan on sitting out this season.

“Absolutely, I'll be able to play this year,” he said.

Mauti and former Penn State teammate and good friend Gerald Hodges, also an outside linebacker, were each drafted by the Vikings.

Mauti had hoped to get drafted higher, but when the Vikings picked him it provided more than a measure of relief.

“I couldn't be happier all of this is over,” Mauti said.

Scott Brown is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. Reach him at sbrown@tribweb.com or via Twitter @ ScottBrown_Trib.

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