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Mauti’s uphill battle would be historic.

 

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Michael Mauti is attempting to do what has only been done once in NFL history.  To return to the field after suffering a third ACL tear.  Carolina linebacker Thomas Davis is believed to be the only NFL player to have done it. Now, Michael Mauti thinks he has a great chance to accomplish this rare feat.

He has a few things going for him in his quest. First and most importantly, his knee’s joint structure remains intact, with no degenerative damage or complicating cartilage/meniscus damage.

“It’s rare,”  Mauti said. “When it comes to the draft, realistically I know teams are going to get me for a bargain here because of my injury history.”

Mauti, isn’t expected to compete for the starting middle linebacker position…….just yet!  But he could be a pleasant surprise, considering his injury history and the fact that he’s had a pair of those knee surgeries in a 14-month span.

The best-case scenario has for this season has Mauti contributing on special teams and competing for a starting job in 2014. There is also the possibility that the Vikings will place him on the injured reserve list for this season and give him another entire year to make sure that he is completely healthy, giving him the best long term chance to salvage his career.

“I’m right where I want to be right now,” Mauti said. “I wouldn’t say ahead of schedule, I wouldn’t say behind. The recovery is a very tedious process. You have to grind it out.”

Mauti should know what that means as he had been through this before. But don’t count him out. One of the attributes that the Vikings love is Mauti’s attitude. The same attitude that pushed him to write letters to all 32 NFL general managers before the draft to express his love for football. He knows plenty of NFL teams will be wary and understandably scared off by his injury history. But it only takes one believer.

“I just didn’t want them to lose track of me,” said Mauti  “I tried to tell them how much the game meant to me, and let them know there was no doubt in my mind that I was going to play in the league. Really the proof is in the pudding with an injury like this. It’s about how hard you rehab and how you respond to adversity, and I’ve proven I can do that. Look at the season I had last year after coming off my second ACL (in October 2011).”

“He seems to be a guy that is pretty driven,” coach Leslie Frazier said. “He has a good idea of what he thinks he can accomplish and how he can get it done. (He’s) a guy with a single focus, which is not a bad thing at the position we are asking him to play.

Another attribute that was attractive to the Vikings was Mauti’s leadership skills, football instincts and tackling fundamentals which are considered to be elite.

His leadership skills became evident in the aftermath of the late 2011 Jerry Sandusky sex abuse scandal, an experience, unshared by anyone except those who were forced to live through it. Stiff sanctions were placed on Penn State by the NCAA. The team lost their scholarships and players were allowed to transfer  without penalty. No bowl games or Big Ten titles to earn. Recruiters set upon the campus like Vultures on a dead carcass, inciting players to flee like rats on a sinking ship.

Mauti says he was “dodging 40-50 calls a day from schools trying to recruit us, trying to get me on an airplane to go visit their schools. We had coaches from (University of) Illinois on our campus, outside of our apartments, even waiting outside classrooms for guys,” Mauti said. “It was a meat market out there. But it was by design. The NCAA made that happen. I don’t think much could throw me after going through that.”

But Mauti didn’t bail!

When Legendary head coach Joe Paterno was forced out, the reverberations rocked the campus for weeks. “Our foundation basically crumbled underneath us,” “Joe gets fired and we’ve got to play Nebraska like three days later. Coaches are crying every day in our meeting rooms, and crying before the game. And we’re like, as players, ‘Hey, c’mon. We’ve got to get ready to play a game here.’

Things seemed very different just a few years earlier when Mauti was a highly sought after recruit out of Mandeville High School in Louisiana, where he was a hard-hitting linebacker for Coach Guy LeCompte. He collected 121 tackles, four quarterback sacks, two forced fumbles, and two interceptions returned for touchdowns during his senior season. He was ranked among the ESPN.com Top 150 recruits, and a top 20 linebacker by Rivals.com.

For his efforts, Mauti was selected to the 2008 U.S. Army All-American Bowl.

When recruiter called, the choice seemed easy. After all, what better place for an elite linebacker prospect to go then to “Linebacker” University. So off he went to Penn State.

We fast forward to the last game of his Senior season.  Mauti walked into the locker room on crutches and saw that each of his fellow seniors had put his No. 42 on their white helmets in tribute, with senior linebacker and fellow Vikings draftee Gerald Hodges wearing Mauti’s jersey against Wisconsin that day.

That level of respect only happens when your teammates truly respect you. It is that among other things that attracted the Vikings to select Mauti in round: 7 with pick number 213. A position where an otherwise healthy Michael Mauti would not have been available.

** Career highlights and awards:

First-team All-American (2012)

First-team All-Big Ten (2012)

Butkus-Fitzgerald Linebacker of the Year (2012)

3x Big Ten Defensive Player of the Week.

His Biography would include the following information:

Mauti was born in New Orleans, Louisiana on January  19, 1990.

Ht: 6’2″

Wt: 243LBS.

Arm Length: 32.5″

Hand Size: 10.5″

Bench Press: 28 reps at 225 Lbs.

His pedigree shows that his father is Rich Mauti, who played wide receiver at Penn State in 1975 and 1976, and the National Football League for the New Orleans Saints (1977–83) and Washington Redskins (1984).

His brother Patrick was a wide receiver for the Nittany Lions from 2005 to 2009

Mauti earned his degree in crime, law and justice from Penn State in December 2011.

 This is what several evaluators had to say about Mauti before the draft.

“A very competitive player and outstanding leader, Mauti has a troubled injury history, including two anterior cruciate ligament injuries and a third knee issue that ended his last season prematurely. He’s got great instincts, and his best position is probably middle linebacker.” — Gil Brandt

NFL.com: “Mauti is an extremely intuitive and instinctual player. He’s far from a remarkable athlete, but he is coordinated in changing direction, and is fundamentally sound in taking on blocks and making tackles. Versatile enough to play multiple linebacker spots. Tough and physical, but his injury history is a major worry. His medical exams are going to be crucial to his draft stock.”

Dane Brugler, CBS Sports: “Mauti is a good, not great, athlete with adequate physical tools for the next level, but his best attributes are his natural awareness and decisive read/react skills. Based on his instincts and playing temperament, Mauti reminds scouts of former Lions Paul Posluszny and Sean Lee (both second round NFL Draft picks), but his durability will determine his NFL draft value.”

Russ Lande, National Football Post: “Overall, because of the injuries I do not expect Mauti will be drafted before the late rounds of the Draft, but if he proves he is able to stay healthy (Which is a long shot as most players who struggle with injuries in college usually struggle to stay healthy in the NFL) he has what it takes to be a high end starting linebacker in the NFL. He fits best as a middle linebacker in a 43 scheme, but could also effectively play inside linebacker in a 34 defense or an outside linebacker spot in a 43 scheme.”

The Vikings intend to be patient with Mauti. The payoff may not be immediate, but the investment could pay huge dividends in time.

–        Dawgg !


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2 Responses to “Mauti’s uphill battle would be historic.”

  1. purplereign57 says:

    It’s good to know that there is a player like Mauti on the Vikings team. It seems he has all the necessary tools to become a high caliber NFL linebacker. I ‘ve read somewhere before that he was an absolute beast, and had a heart like a lion. IMO, those two qualities are two of the most important ones that a player must have.
    I sincerely wish Mauti the very best, hopes that he can make history and follow in the footsteps of Thomas Davis, and become the second man in NFL history to come back from 3 ACL injuries, and play at the level that I have seen Davis play.
    Best of luck, Michael. May the force be with you. Practice and play with heart, determination, hard work. Study the playbook… you’ ve got the time. Pay attention to the veteran backers, they can teach you a lot. AND PAY ATTENTION TO ERIC SUGARMAN, he’s the best in the business. Best of luck! SKOL VIKINGS!!!!

  2. Bigg Dawg says:

    Purple, Mauti IS a Beast……when he’s healthy. If not for the three ACL injuries, he may have been a 1st round pick. Many coaches feel he could have been the best MLB in the draft. If he’s healthy, he’s a steal !

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