Michael Mauti was an integral piece of the Penn State football team who helped hold the program together when the NCAA issued sanctions against the school five years ago.
Mauti became the face of the Nittany Lions in 2012, keeping the roster intact behind the scenes and playing at a high level on the field. Five years after the sanctions, the linebacker — currently a free agent in the NFL following surgery for ulcerative colitis — reflected on the 2012 season during a podcast with Lions247.
— Lions247 Podcast (@Lions247Podcast) September 15, 2017
Penn State finished the 2012 season 8-4 after an 0-2 start, and in large part to players like Mauti who stuck around, the Nittany Lions haven’t had a losing season since the sanctions were handed down. Coming off a Big Ten championship, Penn State is the No. 5 team in the country.
While things are looking up for the program, Mauti thinks the punishment against Penn State football team was not justified. He called out NCAA president Mark Emmert during the interview.
“[Emmert] can say whatever he wants to say about the justification for what he did,” Mauti said. “But everybody knows it was the wrong thing. At the end of the day, he can lay his head down at night and tell himself whatever he wants to go to sleep, but he knows it wasn’t the right move and we all do too. At the end of the day, Penn State really showed what people they have there and what kind of culture they have there.”
Mauti also told an interesting story as he looked back on 2012. It involved USC’s recruitment of Silas Redd — who ultimately transferred to the Trojans. But before Redd left Penn State, Mauti said he and fullback Mike Zordich were ready to go to Redd’s Connecticut home and confront the USC coaches.
“We heard they were sending all the coaches out to Connecticut to his house like Lane Kiffin and [Ed Orgeron],” Mauti recalled. “We were in the car packing up. I called up [former Penn State strength coach Craig Fitzgerald] and was like, ‘Hey we’re going to Connecticut to meet these USC coaches and we’re going to fight them on the lawn.’ We were ready to go.”
Bill O’Brien, Penn State’s head coach in 2013 and 2014, talked them out of it.
“Two minutes later O’Brien calls me,” Mauti said. “He’s like, ‘Hey man, I hear you. I feel you on what you’re trying to do. But if he doesn’t want to be here, let him go. Screw it. We’re moving on. That’s stupid. Don’t do that.’ We’re like OK. We took a deep breath. That was a little crazy. We just let it happen.”