About a month after sending hand-written letters to all 32 NFL teams, Michael Mauti is prepared to defend his original message — football is his passion and he’ll be back to full-strength for the start of next season.
The heralded Penn State linebacker and a leader of the memorable 2012 senior class said in a phone interview Thursday he is looking forward to a chance to display his current health at the NFL Combine this weekend after suffering a major left knee injury when Penn State faced Indiana last November.
“I’m really excited just for the opportunity to get in front of some NFL coaches and prove to them that I’m going to be healthy and ready to play in the next season,” Mauti said.
Mauti will be joined by three other former Nittany Lions — fellow linebacker Gerald Hodges, defensive tackle Jordan Hill and offensive lineman Matt Stankiewitch — for the event taking place in Indianapolis this weekend. Stankiewitch will put his physical abilities on display for NFL scouts first on Friday, while the three defenders won’t begin physical workouts until Monday.
Mauti said he will be very limited at the Combine but described his rehab as “way ahead of schedule,” saying he is already running during personal workouts.
“I obviously won’t run at the combine but I feel great, and I really feel great to just get the chance to express that to a lot of the NFL coaches,” Mauti said.
The Mandeville, La. native said he’s prepared for the many questions he’s likely to be asked from NFL representatives regarding his rehab this weekend, when the interviews and physicals will take place for defenders.
However, Mauti said he hopes the letters he sent out earlier this year will have already answered some of these questions, and contended that this was the main reason he decided to write them.
“It wasn’t for the media. I didn’t want to make a story out of it,” Mauti said. “I didn’t want it to sound like it was self-serving or anything like that. I just wanted to express to them that I was going to be ready to play, and there was no doubt in my mind that I would be back.”
As for the linebacker’s draft stock, Ourlads.com NFL scouting analyst Dan Shonka said Mauti has the most hinging on this weekend of any of the former Lions at the Combine.
Shonka said Mauti emerged as a dominant defender in the Big Ten while healthy, but his previous play will not be the focus of NFL teams this weekend.
“Obviously, the big thing with him is going to be the injury situation, how his physicals are going,” Shonka said. “That’s the bottom line, if he’ll be able to hold up. Because with all those knee injuries and things, teams will be really wary of that.”
Meanwhile, Mauti also discussed how the college careers of the former Lions looking to move on to the next level have helped ready them to do so.
The situation wasn’t ideal during the initiation of the sanction-era, but Mauti said enduring it has helped the graduating seniors become stronger and more prepared to move on because of what they’ve overcome.
“You could say if you’ve gotten through this, we can handle anything,” Mauti said. “I think those are some of the toughest circumstances that you could imagine.”
NFL Combine outlook
Shonka explained that this weekend is “one piece of the puzzle” in the grand scheme of things for prospects at the Combine.
The analyst said the interviewing process and physicals conducted will be most crucial for each player’s stock come draft day, but he doubts any of the Penn Staters will have trouble eventually making it to the next level.
“They’re all good football players and I think they’ll all get a chance at the National Football League,” Shonka said. “The important thing is that they get put in the right scheme for their ability.”
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