Penn State linebacker Michael Mauti is ready to return to the field and start hitting people again.
After seeing his promising 2011 season come to a devastating end last September, Mauti has worked his way through rehabilitation, took things a little lighter than the rest of the team in the spring but continued to work hard.
Bill O'Brien may be new to the program, but even he knows just how special Mauti can be for this team.
Here's a quick look at Mauti's Penn State career to this point.
Mauti's father, Rich, was a letterman at Penn State in 1975 and '76 as a wide receiver.
He would go on to play for the New Orleans Saints and establish his family in the area.
Mauti became a highly sought after recruit as he excelled at the linebacker position in high school, earning an invite to participate in the 2008 U.S. Army All-American Bowl.
Michael Mauti is the third player from the Mauti family to play at Penn State.
His father, Rich, and older brother, Patrick, each played wide receiver for Penn State. The Mauti family is not alone of course.
A good number of families have seen multiple generations suit up in blue and white over the years.
In this photo, Mauti is shown with fullback Michael Zordich, who is also a second generation Penn State football player.
Mauti has been a widely respected team leader for Penn State.
Last year, he attended Big Ten media days as a player representative, and his battles back from injuries have earned the respect of everyone around him.
Mauti wasted little time in getting in the mix with Penn State's defense.
He graduated high school early and enrolled in the spring semester at Penn State in 2008 and began practicing with the team immediately.
He was one of three true freshmen to play in every game in 2008, and he recorded 26 tackles in backup duty and on special teams.
Mauti's injury history is nothing pretty, and it begins with his sophomore season. During an practice in August, Mauti suffered a torn anterior cruciate ligament in his right knee.
The injury would sideline him for the entire season, which he took a medical redshirt season to not lose eligibility.
Mauti was expected to see an increased role on defense that season, and his loss on special teams was a significant loss.
In 2010, Mauti returned to the field following his torn ACL injury from the season prior, and he did quite well for himself.
Mauti saw more playing time on defense and finished fifth on the team with 67 tackles.
He played in 11 games and started seven.
When Penn State made some minor changes to the sacred football uniform prior to the 2011 season, it was Mauti who would be the first player to be shown off wearing the altered jersey.
Penn State shared this photo on Twitter to their followers, and it quickly began circulating around the blogosphere and elsewhere.
A torn ACL injury in Mauti's left knee last September took the redshirt junior out of commission for the remainder of the season once again.
In four games, Mauti recorded 21 tackles, including 10 solo take downs. The injury came early in a September game against Eastern Michigan.
He has been working hard to come back and was limited in spring practices.
Michael Mauti received the honor of speaking on behalf of the current Penn State football players at the memorial service for Joe Paterno in January. He shared his Paterno story, just as everyone else did that day.
Mauti recalled the day he committed to Penn State. He was making a trip to Penn State with the intent of not committing to anything and just evaluating what Penn State had to offer.
But he said that as soon as he got to meet Joe Paterno and the coach asked if he would be coming to play for him, his answer without hesitation was "Yes."
With a new era upon Penn State in 2012, with a largely new coaching staff, it's expected that one of the constants on the team will be the defense, or at least, the linebackers.
With Mauti expected back Penn State will have a veteran player who has battled through adversity in so many ways to look toward when a leader is needed.
That cannot go without mention in a season when Penn State will need leadership to prevail on and off the field.
Mauti seems equipped for that responsibility.
When this season comes to an end, be it with a win or loss in a bowl game, Mauti will officially look toward his post-college playing career. When we look back on his legacy years from now what will we remember most?
Dedicating himself to return from two separate torn ACL injuries should surely rank at the top of that list, and his character leadership within the team will come a close second. Mauti's lead-by-example work ethic should be used as the model for future players to come through Penn State.
Mauti may no longer have a chance to be recognized among some of the greats to have played the position at Penn State, but his loyalty to the program to battle back from two severe injuries and to not shy away during emotional times surrounding the program speak for itself.
Kevin McGuire is the host of the No 2-Minute Warning podcast, managing editor of Nittany Lions Den and a member of the Football Writers Association of America and National Football Foundation. Follow him on Twitter, like him on Facebook and add him to your Google+ circle.