Penn State Football: The Best of Michael Mauti’s Reddit AMA
Former Penn State linebacker Michael Mauti, along with author John Bacon, participated in a quick Reddit AMA earlier this week. I compiled Mauti’s best answers below, with substantial punctuation and syntax edited for readability.
Question: On Sunday, why did you pull Hodges away from helping DeSean Jackson up? I thought it was hilarious honestly because I’m a Skins fan but I was just curious.
Michael Mauti: Haha, he’s a big boy; he can get himself off the ground. We were just given Hodgie a hard time. All in good fun.
Q: Mike, just how smart is John Urschel?
MM: We went to the Big Ten media days last summer and on the airplane he had a statistics book and I couldn’t even sound out the title of it. Some great stories about him in the book though; outstanding human being.
Q: I just wanted to thank you for everything you did for Penn State, especially last year. That being said, what was your favorite class to take?
MM: My favorite class was Organized Crime — a 400 level CLJ class taught by a teacher no longer working for university, but he was my favorite Prof. Jose Texidor.
Q: When Hodges was drafted by the Vikings, did it ever happen to cross your mind that you would also get drafted by the Viking and play with your best friend?
MM: I never thought it would happen. We have such good chemistry on the field from playing so many snaps together. I’m looking forward to playing linebacker next to him.
Q: As someone who has formerly torn his ACL, I can’t imagine having it three times. Two-part question: Was rehab or surgery any different after the first time and did you lose a little motivation after having it happen again, or just become even more motivated to come back stronger?
MM: It was just like anything else; obviously the third was difficult in its own ways, each one was different. However being home and away from school, which was always kind of a safety net, really meant that I had to do it on my own which was different but far more rewarding.
Q: In what light do you see the NCAA? Do you think it is a necessity? Will it eventually become obsolete?
MM: The NCAA, to me, is an organization that has achieved financial gain from the sweat and blood of student athletes. They own the athletes names, rights, everything…It’s bogus. They’re in it for one thing; money.
Q: 1) Favorite restaurant in State College? 2) How close were you to slugging JayPa at any point in your PSU career? 3) Would you like to slug D’Angelo Roberts from IU if you had the chance?
MM: My favorite restaurant is the Wegman’s cafe. You’ll have to read the book for #2 lol. No, i just hope he doesn’t do that to anyone else in his career…I hope his technique has improved.
Q: With the renewed random speculation this last week about O’Brien maybe leaving for the NFL and it now appearing that he’ll be around at least another year, how long do you realistically foresee him staying around in Happy Valley and what do you think would convince him to leave?
MM: Selfishly, I hope Coach O’Brien stays for a long time, because he’s as good as they come. No idea how long he’ll stay but I’m looking forward to a few more good years watching him tutor Hackenberg and the gang.
Q: What is your favorite Joe Pa quote or story?
MM: One time, I got in a fight at practice and got thrown out of a drill. I was pacing around on the sidelines and Joe walked up to me and said, ‘hey your dad used to think he was tough like that too, fighting people all the time.’ He also wrote a very special note to me after I got my diploma which I will hold on to for the rest of my life.
Q: Mr. Bacon quoted you as saying something to the effect of Jay Paterno being everything you don’t want in a coach. I’ve had mixed experiences with people in leadership positions. From the perspective of a football player, was are the most important qualities for someone coaching you? Are there different qualities you look for in leaders on the field? And what has helped you most in developing your own leadership skills?
MM: I think mutual respect is a very important factor. I wanted to play for someone that would go to bat for me and have my back. Learning from O’Brien and the way he handled the chaos of last summer and his teachings really helped me most of all. There are some great anecdotes in the book about that worth reading.
Q: Last year, it was a dirty, illegal block by an Indiana player that ended your season, hurt your draft status, and kept you from playing on senior day. Do you harbor any resentment towards him? Also, what can you say about Gerald Hodges’ decision to wear #42 in your honor, and putting your number on all the helmets?
MM: I held on to a lot of anger about things in the past and it was never helpful, although that chop block cost me a significantly lower place in the draft. It was just poor technique — I hope he has improved since then. For me, it just became yet another obstacle in the way of my dreams of playing in the NFL. I knew I could play, which was the frustrating part, I just had to go the long route. Life ain’t always a patch of roses, haha. I appreciate your support! It means a lot.
Q: First of all thank you for being a Penn Stater through such tough times. My question, what was Jay Paterno really like? Was he inept as some people said? Did Nepotism get him that job?
MM: I’m not going to bash anyone, but he is described accurately in the book.
Q: Mike, what do you think of Coach Vandy “resigning” from Penn State? Any insight?
MM: Coach Vandy is an outstanding coach and great person. I’m not sure what caused him to resign. He has had an outstanding track record at producing great PSU LBs. I wish him nothing but the best in his future.
Q: Do you think the NCAA will lift the last two years of Penn State’s bowl bans in the coming months?
MM: Yes, I believe they will reduce them. It’s obvious PSU is a different program under O’Brien, and one that has nothing to do with the past. PSU is moving forward in a big way, as you’ll read in the book. O’Brien is one the best leaders I’ve been around.
Q: I recall an excerpt from the book that John released which noted that Mike was offered money to transfer to some unspecified school. This seems shocking, but maybe fans are naive. As two people with some personal insight into CFB, would you be willing to estimate how many FBS programs actually offer recruits money/illegal gifts? <5%? >50%?
MM: I know for a fact the money, in terms of numbers, has reached over $100 K over the span of 3 or 4 years easily. In some cases, even more.
Q: How many American flags have you hung on the walls of the Vikings training facilities? Any as big as the one in the PSU facility?
MM: You can never have enough American flags.
Q: How important of a role do the fans play with the players’ desire to fight through a trying time like that? Or does all the motivation have to come from within?
MM: Our fan support at PSU was, bar none, the most important thing that kept us going. All we had was the guys in that building, but we knew we were doing the right thing when our fans came out last summer for our workout and sent the thousands and thousands of emails and letters to me throughout the year.
Q: Ws there ever a point where you didn’t think that the bigger group wasn’t going to stick around in the wake of the sanctions?
MM: After the second day of the sanctions, we were really concerned. There are some really good sections that John sheds light on in the book that give you an idea of how serious of a situation we were in. Let’s just say, at one point while I sat in O’Brien’s office the day after the sanctions, he asked me, ‘Hey Mike, you ever play offense?’ Hah, it was as serious as it gets.
Q: In the middle of finals hell week, what was your go to study snack?
MM: Jimmy Johns gargantuan
Q: Here’s the big one — you have spent a lot of time around Coach Paterno. While people who have never met him are quick to vilify, what is your honest opinion? Do you think he purposefully “didn’t do enough” or even covered up heinous acts to protect the University? Even if there is even more information coming out that supports the Paterno side, what do you think it will take to get the media to come out with the same force to say that Paterno isn’t the horrible person they all claim he is?
MM: It’s hard to say because none of us were there for those conversations. I know the experiences I had with Joe and the opportunity he gave me and my family and I’m grateful for that. Beyond that, you can’t take away all the good he brought to the university. Unfortunately, he didn’t go out the way he should have.
Q: Mike, how do you view the players that left the program after the sanctions were announced?
MM: They were guys that weren’t all the way bought in from the beginning. We made a commitment to a university and we were going to honor that. They had to do what they thought was best; we wished them well and moved on.
Q: Not to nitpick, but I feel like Anthony Fera’s situation was a little more unique than others… no?
MM: It was; his mother was sick so we all understood what he had to do. There were no hard feelings with him.
Q: This tends to be a controversial subject, and I’m yet to read your book so excuse me if it’s answered in there, but what are each of your thoughts on college athletes being paid? Personally I don’t think they should have a salary per se, but something’s not right with the fact that there are thousands of blue 16 jerseys here on campus and Denard didn’t get a cent of it.
MM: I think the NCAA just makes too much money. Period. There’s too much money being made to responsibly look out for the best interest of the student athletes. I remember running out of food points every month and had to eat ramen noodles and hot pockets at times, yet our program was one of the highest in revenues around the country? It doesn’t make sense. These kids have year-round full time jobs; the NCAA makes money off their sweat and blood. It doesn’t seem fair to me. Bacon makes great arguments in the book on this topic; he answers that in full detail.
Q: I just wanted to know what you thought of the reduction in sanctions and how your time at Penn State has affected your playing at the NFL level?
MM: I think they’ll get reduced. O’Brien is working behind the scenes on that. I think my technique and studying habits really gave me a great foundation to build on at the next level.