February 21, 2013 at 7:10 PM
The last time Michael Mauti was seen in pads, he was being carted off the field at Beaver Stadium in the first half of Penn State's win against Indiana on Nov. 17.
Just more than three months later, the former Nittany Lion said his rehab from the left knee injury is going even better than expected as he prepares for the NFL Combine in Indianapolis this weekend.
“I’m way ahead of schedule and just feeling really great right now," Mauti said in a phone interview. "I’ve been running. 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 was the anchor to the Lions' outstanding defense and appeared to be a prime NFL prospect before missing the season finale due to injury this past season.
The linebacker finished his final season with 95 tackles, three forced fumbles and three interceptions, but after his third knee injury in the past four years, his NFL future became a bit less certain.
CBSSports.com currently projects Mauti as a seventh-round draft pick if he does get selected, and has the Mandeville, La. native as the 26th-ranked player at the linebacker position.
This weekend could prove vital for Mauti, who said he will not be able to participate fully in workouts, but will be closely inspected during physical examinations and also questioned during interviews with NFL teams. Mauti will begin his medical exams and interviews Friday with the rest of the linebackers invited.
However, the former Lion said he plans to be full-strength before the fall season, and he looks forward to proving his rehab progress to those who matter most over the next few days.
“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 [NFL] season,” Mauti said.
Mauti said he doesn't feel any extra nerves as he prepares to take the next step in his career and leave Happy Valley, a place where he made a name for himself during the past few years.
“I’m not nervous. I think I’m just ready," Mauti said. "[Playing in the NFL] is something that you’ve been dreaming about since you were kids. I think the time has come to make it happen. I’m just trying to get an opportunity to follow those dreams.”
Check Friday's edition of the Daily Collegian for more on Mauti, as well as the other three Nittany Lions participating in the NFL Combine.