Another crushing injury forces Mike Mauti to help Penn State in a different way

Mike Mauti didn’t want to talk about his injured knee, just yet. 
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He said it was out of respect for his teammates and preparations for the senior day game Saturday in Beaver Stadium against Wisconsin. 
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On Monday, Penn State released a statement saying the star linebacker will be unable to play in his final game as a Nittany Lion, and nothing more. 
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Mike Mauti says he must push on this week in spite of his serious knee injury. He owes as much to his teammates.

There’s a chance he still doesn’t know the exact prognosis for his injury and how it could affect his NFL Draft status or even a possibility of applying to the NCAA for a sixth year of eligibility at Penn State. 
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But all of that is for another time. 
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Rather, in a phone interview Monday evening, Mauti talked of how he would be “out there Saturday for the linebackers and coaching up my teammates, giving them support and motivation … 
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“I’m going to be watching plenty of (game) film this week.” 
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It will be similar to the role he occupied for much of last season while rehabbing. He will be an extra assistant coach in practice and on game day. 
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He will force himself to focus on his teammates and their final game of the season. 
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But for him? 
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He did admit to being overwhelmed by the “hundreds and hundreds of messages” from fans since being carted off the field against Indiana with his third knee injury in four years. 
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“It means a lot to me. Obviously, it really shows how much this team means to them and how much this season means to a lot of people. It won’t be until a while later that we really understand the true meaning of that.” 
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He’s fiery on the field and around his teammates but rather soft-spoken and humble to fans away from it. 
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On Monday, he preferred talking about anyone other than himself. Fellow linebacker Mike Hull was an easy topic. 
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Hull, a junior, has said he looks up to Mauti, even stayed at Penn State after the NCAA sanctions, in part, because of him. 
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Now, Mauti returned the praise. 

Mike Hull has done a bit of everything for the Penn State defense. Now, he must replace Mike Mauti again.


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“(Hull’s) made plays for us all year at all three linebacker positions,” Mauti said. “He’s a very intelligent guy and very talented and is always making plays while rotating all three spots, and that really is impressive. That’s a lot to learn. 
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“He’s taken all of that on unselfishly. He’s a guy we’re really depending on now.” 
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Finally, the talk swung back to him. 
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I asked him about that rare standing ovation fans gave him last Saturday — for an injured player. 
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“They’ve been our energy and our fire when we’re at home,” Mauti said of the fans. “Just for them to understand and respect what we’re doing … They love Penn State.” 
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Maybe more than anyone else, those fans credit Mauti for keeping this team together during the worst times last summer.
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“We were in a position to do our part and help the university rally around something positive,” he said, once again pushing the attention away from himself. 
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But there’s no way to really spin the meaning of Saturday. 
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He will be announced with the seniors. He expects to be on the sideline for the final time as a Penn State player. 
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In a sense, it won’t matter that he won’t play. 
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The applause will rise up once more. 

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