Two weeks ago, Michael Mauti returned to his old home, the Lasch Football Building.
Mauti — a first-team All-American linebacker and the linchpin of Penn State’s program-saving 2012 team — sat in defensive meetings, discussed what it takes to make the NFL and chatted with players like Nick Scott about leadership. And the NFL free agent, known for inspiring teammates and fans alike during the post-Sandusky NCAA sanctions, addressed the 2018 Nittany Lions.
Mauti told the Centre Daily Times he had a lot to say when James Franklin asked what Penn State meant to him.
“When you come to Penn State, you have your teammates. Those friendships and bonds that you create in the locker room, they don’t just happen,” Mauti told the CDT this week. “You have to cultivate them and really look out for each other and work hard together and continue to push each other and compete with each other. That’s why I still have the relationships with the guys I played with. My dad, the same way. That’s part of the legacy.
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“It starts in that daily cultivation with each other, and that’s not something that happens on your phone. That happens when you sit next to a guy, when you walk with him in the hallway. You’re looking out for one another. You have accountability to one another. That’s what builds a close team.
“That’s the message I was going for. They’ve got a lot of young guys on that team that are new. They might not know what Penn State is all about yet. I know Coach Franklin does a great job of making sure that message is conveyed a lot. But just hearing it from a former guy, hopefully they got something out of it.”
And they did.
Redshirt junior Shareef Miller, now a leader on the defensive side of the ball, said Mauti’s message ahead of the Kent State game to “never be an outsider” resonated with him. Offensive lineman Ryan Bates liked how Mauti emphasized “cherishing what we have now and where we’re going to be.”
And Scott, a two-time captain, was pumped to pick Mauti’s brain.
“He’s a guy that I definitely look up to,” the safety said. “I knew his name when I was recruited. I knew everything about him watching him, and I knew he was extremely respected around this campus.”
And, at least for the time being, Mauti will be closer to Happy Valley than ever before since graduating. The former New Orleans Saints and Minnesota Vikings linebacker is living in Philadelphia, waiting to get picked up by an NFL team. In the meantime, Mauti has stayed around football, whether it was visiting the Nittany Lions or joining former teammate and current Widener defensive coordinator Dan Connor in the booth last weekend.
When asked if he’d consider coaching one day, Mauti said he hasn’t closed any doors but wants to “finish playing first.”
Regardless, players like Scott and Bates now view him as more than just a letterman. After helping guide Penn State through hardship half a decade ago, Mauti has become a mentor to a new crop of Nittany Lions.
“I look forward to staying in contact with him,” Scott said, “using him as a guy just to work on my growth.”