On my drive home from State College on Saturday, I began thinking about Michael Mauti and his impact on Penn State. The 5th year senior linebacker had just seen his season end on a meaningless play against the Hoosiers. The career of a Penn State warrior had come to an end. I had planned on writing something this week, hoping to encompass the career of the team leader on senior week, but that plan changed when Mauti exited Saturday’s game on a cart.
After a few days of trying to put my thoughts together, I realized that the people around me on Saturday afternoon told the story of Michael Mauti much better than I could have every hoped to. Deep down, I’m just a fan. I like Michael Mauti because he plays linebacker like a madman and helped hold this team together when things looked as bad as they ever had. He is the definition of Penn State. No nonsense. No excuses. Bring it.
On Saturday, I realized how much more than that Michael Mauti is. In the press box, when a player goes down on the field, binoculars pop up and writers start mumbling about who it could be. I’ve seen it be Belton, Hodges, Robinson, Hill, you name it. It’s part of football. When the referees announced the timeout on Saturday, I could only make out the 4 on the jersey. I quickly scanned the field and found Hill (47), Carson (40) and Hull (43). Almost thinking out loud, I said “It’s not Mauti…is it?”
At the same time, I heard the people around me who were realizing it at the same time. It was immediately different than other injuries. The tone was different. Mauti, who has battled back from not one, but two torn ACL injuries, has the respect of many. Those people all wish him the best and hoped that it wasn’t serious. Attention quickly focused on the monitors where BTN would be undoubtedly playing a replay to diagnose the injury. There it was. The left knee was buckled awkwardly and now, with Mauti still on the field in pain, the obvious was clear. The usually quiet press box was filled with heartfelt echos of “Oh no” and “Poor kid.” The Big Ten guys, the Indiana media and your own Penn State writers, the ones who take so much heat for being rabblerousers and speaking out against the program, all had hurt in their eyes. No one wanted to say it, but we all knew what had just happened.
Before I had time to digest what was happening around me, I looked back down and saw that fellow senior Jordan Hill was kneeling next to Mauti as the cart pulled onto the field. The entire team was halfway on the field and Gerald Hodges paced without direction, almost unsure about what to do next. As the cart pulled away, Michael Zordich stepped out of the crowd to stop it. He shared a brief handshake and hug with his defensive counterpart and exchanged a few words. As the cart resumed it’s path to the locker room, the entire scene began to sink in.
The scene in the box, the stands and on the field was surreal. It was so quiet.