Without a doubt, Mike Mauti is the best interview on the Nittany Lions this season.
He seems to give the most honest answers. He provides some heartfelt emotion. And he elaborates beyond the scripted, mundane, one-sentence responses you get from a lot of athletes.
That’s why there must have been nearly 20 reporters on his weekly teleconference again this morning.
And he didn’t disappoint.
He talked about how Urban Meyer recruited him hard at Florida out of high school, and how he seemed nearly set on going there before he visited Penn State.
(Mauti grew up in Louisiana, visited Penn State with his former Nittany Lion father, Rich, and committed to Joe Paterno in his office).
“It wasn’t too hard to pitch Florida at the time,” Mike Mauti explained of Meyer’s success. “You get to play for the Gators.”
On those who felt Penn State would falter and struggle this season in light of the NCAA sanctions and ensuing transfers:
“To me, that’s pretty much a joke and pretty disrespectful to our program. It would be better for me to keep my mouth shut on that one.”
On if he feels some kind of empathy or an understanding with the Buckeyes, since they also are banned from the postseason this year by NCAA sanctions.
“Their boat is a little different than ours. We’re kind of unrelated to our sanctions. We didn’t do anything to help our football team win or cheat. I’m not saying they’re cheaters. We respect (Ohio State). But we’re unrelated to the reason why our program is sanctioned, do you know what I mean?”
Mauti said O’Brien’s worth ethic is unequaled, how he is always around his office working 18 hours a day. And it shows in the five-game winning streak.
“In my opinion that’s the coach of the year, right there, no question in my mind.”
On the rumors that Meyer was an early candidate to become Penn State’s new head coach last year:
“We heard all kinds of rumors going around at that point in time, and that was one of them.”
And on what a victory over Ohio State would prove:
“It will show the kind of character we have, given everything we’ve been through as a team and everything that has stood in our way, whether sanctions or transfers.
“We just have the kind of guys who smile at that kind of adversity and take it head-on.”