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PSU's Mauti, Hodges reunited with Vikings

ASSOCIATED PRESS - Penn State linebackers Gerald Hodges (6) and Khairi Fortt, rear, tackle Eastern Michigan quarterback Alex Gillett during a Sept. 24, 2011, game. The Minnesota Vikings drafted Hodges in the fourth round on Saturday, April 27, 2013.
<div style='float:right;width:100%;' align='right'><em>ASSOCIATED PRESS</em></div>Penn State linebackers Gerald Hodges (6) and Khairi Fortt, rear, tackle Eastern Michigan quarterback Alex Gillett during a Sept. 24, 2011, game. The Minnesota Vikings drafted Hodges in the fourth round on Saturday, April 27, 2013.
Getty Images - Penn State linebacker Michael Mauti hits Navy quarterback Trey Miller on Sept. 15, 2012. Mauti was drafted by the Minnesota Vikings on Saturday.
<div style='float:right;width:100%;' align='right'><em>Getty Images</em></div>Penn State linebacker Michael Mauti hits Navy quarterback Trey Miller on Sept. 15, 2012. Mauti was drafted by the Minnesota Vikings on Saturday.

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By Scott Brown and Jerry DiPaola
Saturday, April 27, 2013, 2:43 p.m.
 

Michael Mauti's wait is finally over.

The Penn State All-American linebacker was taken in the seventh round of the NFL Draft on Saturday by the Minnesota Vikings. Mauti might have been a second- or third-round pick, but he sustained his third torn ACL last November in Penn State's penultimate game of the season.

Mauti will be reunited in Minnesota with former PSU teammate and fellow outside linebacker Gerald Hodges, a fourth-round pick of the Vikings.

“We're so excited to play together,” Mauti said. “Just to have an opportunity to play for an organization like that, it's just going to be great.”

“I think it should be illegal for me and Mauti to be on the same team again but hey I don't make the rules we just abide by them!!!!” Hodges wrote on Twitter.

Mauti helped keep Penn State's program together in July after the NCAA levied sanctions and waived the penalty for players transferring.

He made 95 tackles and led PSU with three interceptions before tearing his left ACL. PSU honored Mauti in the final game by putting No. 42 stickers on its helmets.

Hodges switched from No. 6 to No. 42 as a tribute to Mauti, who was named the Big Ten's most outstanding linebacker.

Mauti sent letters to every NFL general manager telling them about his love for football and conviction that he would play at a high level despite his injury history. He visited several teams, including the Steelers.

He is the ninth PSU linebacker to get drafted since 2006. Hodges, a former safety, believed he would be drafted earlier because of his coverage skills.

“I feel real comfortable in coverage and playing in the box at the same time,” he said. “I told (the Vikings) I can play outside or inside, that I can just play the linebacker position well. I believe I'm going to do nothing but get even better.”

Hodges, a two-time All-Big Ten selection, said getting drafted was a relief after a long wait.

“A lot of weight off my shoulders, off my family's shoulders,” he said.

The only WPIAL player drafted was center Eric Kush of Chartiers Valley and California (Pa.). Kush was taken by the Chiefs with the second pick of the sixth round (170th overall), the highest a Cal player has been chosen.

Former Chartiers Valley coach Chris Saluga said there was more to Kush (6-3 12, 310 pounds) than physical ability.

“He was a very loyal player,” he said. “He would do anything coaches asked of him. He would do anything for his teammates. He represented the program well. (The program) was part of his lifestyle.”

Kush played on the 2007 Chartiers Valley team that finished 8-3, losing, 3-0, to eventual PIAA Class AAA champion Thomas Jefferson.

“He was a dominant two-way player,” Saluga said. “He played defensive end and just kind of shut down his side for the entire game.”

Kush also was a two-time medalist in the PIAA wrestling tournament, finishing seventh as a junior and eighth as a senior.

Kush was lightly recruited but became a star at California, starting 32 games over the past three seasons. He played tackle as a sophomore and center in 2011 and '12. The Chiefs drafted him as a center.

As a senior, he was chosen first-team All-PSAC West and second-team All-American by D2football.com.

Note: Four former PSU players signed as undrafted free agents: offensive lineman Mike Farrell (Steelers), fullback Mike Zordich (Carolina) and cornerback Stephon Morris and center Matt Stankiewitch (Patriots).

Scott Brown and Jerry DiPaola are staff writers for Trib Total Media. Reach Brown at sbrown@tribweb.com. Reach DiPaola at jdipaola@tribweb.com.

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