Wednesday, November 21, 2012

The most exceptional legacy of Michael Mauti

Michael Mauti always will be remembered fondly by Penn State football fans, for his leadership, dignity and passion.

This is a legacy.

Upon sustaining a college career-ending injury, a teammate launches into an in-depth analogy between you and Odysseus, of hero Homer's epics Odyssey and Iliad.

This is a legacy.

When asked, at Big Ten media days, about the unprecedented NCAA sanctions just levied against your football program, you look them right in the eye, and you articulate, over and over, firmly and passionately, what an extraordinary crock of shi%! it is, pride oozing from your pores.

When your PSU career is ended by yet another devastating knee injury, a teammate says, with matter-of-factness, "Michael Mauti will lead us, whether he's playing or not."

This is a legacy.

When you hobble back out into Beaver Stadium, on crutches, near the end of the game in which your remarkable career has ended due to yet another knee injury, tens of thousands chant your name, over and over and over.

When you suffer a devastating knee injury and miss a season, you come back strong. When you suffer a second one, you miss another season and come back strong. And when you suffer a third one, you evoke compassion and admiration from the most jaded observers - but you do not convey an ounce of self pity.

This is a legacy.

When an illegal chop block causes your third brutal knee injury of your college career, a former teammate - one who also endured a devastating series of injuries - tells everyone you would have been the best PSU linebacker of this Greatest Generation of PSU linebackers, even better than legends Poz, Bowman, Lee and Connor, if not for the injuries.

When your coach is randomly asked about you by the media in midseason - a coach you've known for only a few months - he talks about the amazing impact you have made on him, and how you're someone he looks forward to knowing for the rest of his life.

This is a legacy.

When, amidst the greatest and most shocking of scandals, your legendary coach dies, you represent the current generation of Nittany Lions and speak at his memorial, in front of a packed arena - and nail it, off-the-cuff, no notes, pure and unvarnished, with humor, grace and class.

When the NCAA lifts all transfer restrictions to try to entice the Penn State players to leave PSU after levying the harsh sanctions against the football program, you step to the forefront and lead the exodus right back to State College. The vast majority stay.

This is a legacy

On the field? Yes, you were great there, too, when injuries didn't prevent you from playing. In 10-plus games this season: 95 tackles, 3 interceptions, 3 forced fumbles.

This is a legacy.

When the team starts off 0-2, and everyone is forecasting the grand demise of Penn State football, straight into the dustbin of oblivion, you and fellow seniors such as Gerald Hodges, Jordan Hill, Stephon Morris, Matt Stankiewitch and Matt McGloin lead the program into the sanction era by shocking the pundits and winning 7 of the next 9 games. And if not for some terrible calls, it might have been 9 for 9.

When the media and pundits and NCAA and everyone else say Penn State football as we've forever known it is done, finished, kaput, you say over my dead body, and lead the Lions to continued success - success with honor, with academic superstars such as Pete Massaro and John Urschel.

This is a legacy.

When people think about Penn State football, they think about you. And all of the thoughts are positive.

Well done, Michael Mauti, well done.

And, thanks.

For more insight, analysis and opinions about Penn State football, check, or follow Pete Young on Twitter @AllPSUfootball.

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