Penn State linebacker Michael Mauti wasn’t supposed to attend Big Ten Media Days.
In fact, Penn State’s student-athlete presence at the event was in limbo for a while. PSU players showed up shortly after the doors opened, however, and Mauti filled in for running back Silas Redd, who might end up transferring from the school (possibly to USC, per ESPN's Joe Schad).
Earlier this week, Mauti made a powerful public statement regarding the situation at his school. His tone and voice stayed just as powerful, if not more so, in Chicago. His new role as unofficial spokesman and team leader for the players is one he’s certainly embraced given the circumstances.
“It’s just what need to be done right now,” Mauti said. “I’m just privileged to speak on behalf of our teammates.”
Mauti has done more than that, and his message throughout the past week has been clear. When asked for his thoughts regarding Illinois head coaches on (or at least near campus) to recruit players at media days, Mauti didn’t hold anything back.
“I know for a fact that they (Illinois) reached out to our players,” Mauti said. “If you’re from our conference and you’re going to try and steal our players and then wish us well, then I’ve got a serious problem with that.”
Illinois is operating within the rules, but kudos to Mauti for standing up for his school and his teammates. I can’t imagine the frustration of having your roster picked apart, and it was clear in his tone, words and body language that it has taken its toll.
He’s not just doing all of this because there’s a microphone, either. Mauti has spent hours each day responding to emails from fans, alumni and even professors, discussing how the team is holding together and how it plans to move forward.
In a time where leadership was desperately needed, Mauti has certainly answered the call.