Mike Mauti didn’t want to talk about his injured knee, just yet.
He said it was out of respect for his teammates and preparations for the senior day game Saturday in Beaver Stadium against Wisconsin.
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.
But all of that is for another time.
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 …
“I’m going to be watching plenty of (game) film this week.”
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.
He will force himself to focus on his teammates and their final game of the season.
But for him?
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.
“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.”
He’s fiery on the field and around his teammates but rather soft-spoken and humble to fans away from it.
On Monday, he preferred talking about anyone other than himself. Fellow linebacker Mike Hull was an easy topic.
Hull, a junior, has said he looks up to Mauti, even stayed at Penn State after the NCAA sanctions, in part, because of him.
Now, Mauti returned the praise.
“(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.
“He’s taken all of that on unselfishly. He’s a guy we’re really depending on now.”
Finally, the talk swung back to him.
I asked him about that rare standing ovation fans gave him last Saturday — for an injured player.
“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.”
Maybe more than anyone else, those fans credit Mauti for keeping this team together during the worst times last summer.
“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.
But there’s no way to really spin the meaning of Saturday.
He will be announced with the seniors. He expects to be on the sideline for the final time as a Penn State player.
In a sense, it won’t matter that he won’t play.
The applause will rise up once more.