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The Big Ten had an absolutely loaded class of linebackers in 2012, but few linebackers across the nation had as much of an impact on their teams as Michael Mauti did for Penn State. He was one of two vocal, public leaders in the immediate wake of the NCAA sanctions, reminding players and fans alike that the team's goals hadn't changed and that program pride wasn't flagging. He spoke out against Big Ten teams recruiting players and helped guide the perception that such activity was, if not illegal, at least unethical.
When it came time to play, Mauti was every bit as ferocious on the field as he was off. He registered 96 tackles on the season before a serious knee injury cut his year short, and he collected four interceptions and caused three fumbles on the year.
The leadership factor is inestimable, though. Mauti's impact on the team was so great that when he was unable to suit up for the team's season finale at home against Wisconsin, the players all wore his number 42 on their helmets in tribute. That speaks to leadership and respect far beyond what shows up in stat sheets, and having seen what Mauti brought to the table all year, it's understandable.
Second team: Gerald Hodges, Penn State
The fact that Hodges isn't even a first-team All-Big Ten linebacker again goes to show what a loaded class of players this was. Hodges racked up 109 tackles, 8.5 tackles-for-loss and seven passes broken up.