NFL scouts examine nearly every trait imaginable of prospective players, from their measurements, to athleticism to pure intelligence.
However, one thing that may not show up on the scouting report for former Penn State players gunning for the NFL is how they fought through the roller coaster end of their careers, often playing amid a whirlwind of controversy.
“If anything, it builds character and it builds maturity,” offensive lineman Matt Stankiewitch said earlier this month. “It really separates you from people who haven’t been through such traumatic experiences.”
Former Nittany Lions got their last chance to impress scouts with their measureables at Penn State’s Pro Day on Monday, but many of them said they realize their draft stock may be impacted by things more difficult to measure than a 40-yard dash.
Stankiewitch said overcoming the uncertainty surrounding the football program following the Jerry Sandusky sex abuse case helped players grow more as individuals, but also forced them to adjust to a new coaching staff — something they would obviously have to do moving to the next level.
“It prepares you for the unknown, what we just went through,” Stankiewitch said. “It prepares you for a new offense or to learn a new playbook and meet new people and to be at ease at not knowing the future…just knowing that if you work hard and you focus on your job that everything is going to work out fine.”
Players transitioned well under new head coach Bill O’Brien and an almost entirely new coaching staff, finishing the 2012 season 8-4. The staff altered the traditionally conservative offense in Happy Valley while overseeing the defense that also went through several fundamental changes, incorporating a no-huddle scheme.
Upperclassmen played a vital role in leading this successful transition period and linebacker Gerald Hodges said he hopes that will pay off on draft day.
“[Scouts] definitely ask how well we learn,” Hodges said. “Hopefully, they take a real consideration in us having a new whole coaching staff in a couple of months and then having to translate everything onto the field…because I’m ready to get started and ready to learn.”
Running back Michael Zordich said learning in a new environment as the Lions did could be a difference-maker when reading through the X’s and O’s of a professional playbook.
But that’s not the main thing he said the aspiring NFL players took from their careers at Penn State.
“Understanding the power of a locker room,” Zordich said. “Playing with a group of guys and being a part of a team, just being able to play through adversity…[We learned] how important the game is and how much more it means than what’s happening around us, so it gets you through a whole lot.”
Similarly, Michael Mauti, who along with Zordich became known as the most vocal leaders on the team, said the preparation players received was unmistakable as they look to play at the next level.
“You could say if you’ve gotten through this, we can handle anything,” Mauti said recently in a phone interview. “I think those are some of the toughest circumstances that you could imagine.