Penn State Football: Mike Mauti Humbled by Helmet Gesture
Mike Mauti had no clue about the helmet tribute until he walked into the locker room before Saturday’s 24-21 overtime victory against Wisconsin.
“There really are no words,” Mauti said in his first comments since a season-ending left knee injury last week against Indiana. “I just got real emotional. I’m not dead. That’s really what I first thought. Usually, that’s what happens. It’s just such an honor. I don’t have any words.”
He did not want to talk about the severity of the knee injury, nor did he want to talk about petitioning the NCAA for a sixth year of eligibility. The focus, he said, is not supposed to be on him. Not on this night. Not yet.
That was the message Monday, when many players came up to him to ask him how he was holding up.
“My message was to not worry about me because I didn’t want that to be a distraction,” Mauti said. “Our mantra all year was next man up, next man up. And this was no different.”
Carted off the field last week, Mauti ditched the crutches early in the week and was spotted at Tuesday’s practice gingerly moving around greeting teammates during stretch. On Saturday, he wore a headset on the sideline, his blue No. 42 jersey and blue jeans.
Mike Hull, the redshirt sophomore linebacker, took his spot in the starting lineup, and senior Gerald Hodges wore No. 42 in honor of his teammate. An outpouring of support has flooded Mauti’s email inbox and phone since the injury, with thousands of fans writing him to express gratitude for all he’s done for the program throughout the most challenging ordeal in the university’s history.
“It wouldn’t do it justice to pick just one because anyone who writes anything to me, that support means a lot,” Mauti said. “That’s been our fuel all year is our fans and this community. And it’s been such a special thing to be a part of. I never been more proud to have that jersey on even though I didn’t play. I’ve never been more proud. It’s an honor to be a part of this team.”