The University of Illinois, is sometimes called “Linebacker U.” And although they have a strong tradition at that position –producing Dick Butkus, the whose name is on the award given to the nation’s best player at LB- Penn State University has a much richer history of linebackers. You can make a case for the University of Miami being Linebacker U as well, but I’m going to go with State College on this one.
Thirteen men who played the position at PSU have been named All-American; a superlative no other University can touch. There are currently six former Nittany Lions playing LB in the NFL. The next one to likely join them is junior Michael Mauti, who could be a 3rd-5th round draft pick in 2012.
Mauti moves from the outside to the middle this year; where he’ll be flanked by Nate Stupar and Gerald Hodges.
I asked Mauti about what the two-sided equation that is playing linebacker at Linebacker U. There’s glory and fame, but also extreme scrutiny and intense responsibility.
“It’s crazy how many linebackers they’ve put out, going into college, my decision process included thinking ‘where can I go to be the best linebacker? That’s how I looked at it,” Mauti said.
“I met Coach Vanderlinden, our linebackers coach, and he’s got the track record as one of the best, so I wanted to come here to work with him and make the most of my potential. The guys that he’s had through here are pretty awesome,” he said.
Guys in the very recent past like Navarro Bowman, Paul Posluszny, Sean Lee and Dan Connor have set an example for Mauti.
“What they did spoke for themselves, and I could tell these were guys that were like me. When you’re looking at a college you ask where can I can fit in? Are these guys like me? Can I see myself hanging out with them for four years? And that place was Penn State,” Mauti said.
Lee was biggest mentor; partly because both had to deal with similar injury adversity.
“He went through his ACL and then I had mine, so he was probably the biggest help when I was going through that. So he kind of set the bar for me when it comes to work ethic and keeping perspective,” he said.
Mauti enters 2011 a preseason second team All-American and a strong candidate for the Butkus, Bednarik, Rotary Lombardi, Lott and Nagurski awards. And Mauti is working hard on certain aspects of his game to take his game to the next level.
“Trying to be more physical, no matter where I’m at being a little more technical sound, and kind of knowing my responsibilites, being more consistent in making more plays,” he said.
Paul M. Banks is CEO of The Sports Bank.net, an official Google News site that generates millions of unique visitors. He’s also a regular contributor to Chicago Now, Walter Football.com, Yardbarker, and Fox Sports
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