Similar to many days this summer, on July 25, a scene from State College was displayed on news channels throughout the country.
But, instead of displaying a court setting, this time, TV networks showed college students in casual shirts and cargo shorts with scruffy beards.
Two days after the announcement of the NCAA’s sanctions to Penn State’s football team, fifth-year seniors Michael Mauti and Michael Zordich made a statement to reporters, assuring the community that players were determined to move forward. Mauti and Zordich, expected to be two of the main leaders on this year’s team, said the statement helped reinforce to fans they remained committed to the Penn State community.
“We’re going to stick through this,” Zordich said in July. “We’re going to see this thing through.”
Zordich, starting fullback, said last week their decision to speak out was imperative.
“I mean, nobody really heard from us,” Zordich said. “Everybody was hearing from the media and what the media was saying and how everything was gonna fall apart and now guys are leaving. And nobody heard from the locker room.”
Mauti, the middle linebacker who missed the majority of last season due to an ACL tear, said the two senior leaders felt personally responsible to be vocal given their experience with the team.
Zordich said the close friendship he has with Mauti has simplified their job to lead the team.
“We’ve known each other for a while now and we’ve been through a whole lot,” Zordich said. “We know what we’re doing together with this and we’re gonna be alright.”
The two players, who have roomed together since freshman year, have more in common than just being senior leaders for the Lions.
Both of their fathers, Rich Mauti and Michael Zordich Sr., played football at Penn State and went on to play in the NFL.
After the sanctions, Mauti said his father offered him suggestions on how to handle the tough situation.
“His advice to me was just to keep doing what I was doing and control what I could control, which is keeping the defense together, and keeping the core guys together on this team and keep working and get prepared for the season,” Mauti said.
Junior linebacker Glenn Carson said he loves playing next to Mauti on the field.
“He’s a naturally born leader and kind of the type of guy that I’d love to go to war with, I love to play with,” Carson said.
Pat Mauti, who is Michael’s brother and also a Penn State alumnus, said his brother and Zordich offer a fiery leadership style to the team.
“But I think watching Michael Zordich and my brother play the past five years, when they bring a big play to the table, you can see that fire and that energy and that emotion that they bring to the game,” Pat said.