• Angry Mauti defends Penn State football

    CHICAGO – Michael Mauti and Michael Zordich, angry and disappointed over the hefty NCAA sanctions imposed on the Penn State football program, visited coach Bill O’Brien in his office Tuesday night.

    “We said, you know what, Coach, it’s really time we get out there in the media,’ ” Mauti recalled. “We need to start….I mean we’re getting kicked in the teeth out there. We need to do something.”

    Mauti and Zordich hastily arranged a gathering of players Wednesday morning and defended the program in the wake of the Jerry Sandusky child sex abuse scandal with strong remarks.

    But Mauti went even further Thursday during the Big Ten Media Days.

    He took aim at the NCAA, Big Ten coaches whose assistants are recruiting current Penn State players and those who have suggested that Penn State is no more than a football factory.

    “For someone to say we put football ahead of education is lying to you,” an emotional Mauti said. “Have you read the rankings? Penn State graduates eight out of 10 players. No other school can say that. To say my degree means less because of what happened, no way, not a chance.”

    Mauti, defensive tackle Jordan Hill and offensive guard John Urschel represented Penn State at the Big Ten function, one day after it was announced that the school would send no players. O’Brien reconsidered his decision and told them they would be going to Chicago at 8 a.m. They were on a plane by 9 a.m.

    Mauti, a linebacker, substituted for running back Silas Redd, who’s considering whether to transfer to Southern Cal.

    Under terms of the NCAA sanctions, incoming and current Penn State players can transfer without a penalty. That has resulted in a recruiting frenzy with coaches from opposing schools, including some from the Big Ten, camped out in State College and calling parents and high school coaches.

    That really rankled Mauti, who said about 40 schools have contacted his high school coach to recruit him.

    “You’re going to sit here and wish our program well and then try to pull the legs out from underneath us and take our kids?” he said. “Well, you are playing by the rules. But there are really no rules. If you’re gonna wish us well and then try and take our kids, then I got a problem with that.”

    Mauti and O’Brien both said no Penn State player has transferred yet, although reports surfaced Thursday that kicker/punter Anthony Fera has contacted Texas.

    “I didn’t even have to think about staying,” said Urschel, a redshirt junior who graduated in May with a 4.0 GPA in mathematics. “I love Penn State. It’s been extremely good to me and it’s a great university. I have the opportunity to work with world-class researchers in mathematics.

    “At the same time, I can play for Coach Bill O’Brien, who has a tremendous staff. They’re people who have coached in the NFL. It’s a staff that I think is one of the best staffs in the country to prepare you for the next level.”

    Urschel, Mauti and Hill all said they won’t pressure their younger teammates to make a decision before preseason camp opens Aug. 6. All of them have been approached by underclassmen who have asked them for advice.

    “I’ve spoken to a number of guys about these things,” Urschel said. “I can’t make their decision for them and I can’t tell them what to do. I just tell them to really think about what’s important, not to make this decision too quickly and to really think about what we have here at Penn State and what Penn State can offer them.”

    Hill rooms with Redd and understands what he’s going through, but he said their relationship won’t change if Redd transfers to USC.

    “I tell him, ‘No matter where you go, you’re still going to be in my wedding,’ ” Hill said. “ ‘You’re still going to be my boy and I will support you 100 percent.’ Say he goes to a different school, I’ll tune in on TV and if he’s not doing well I’m going to tell him to pick it up, just as if he was on the sideline with us.”

    The three Penn State players have been overwhelmed by the support they’ve received from fellow students, alumni, fans, former players and even faculty members. Mauti said he’s posted about 15 emails in the locker room for his teammates to see.

    “What really struck me was the professors, the heads of departments, who are saying to me, ‘I haven’t been to a game in 10 years, but I’m not going to miss a game,’ ” Mauti said. “Fans have told me they thought they were never coming to a Penn State game again, ‘but I’m coming to every game this year and every year after that.

    “That’s what fires me up. That’s what drives me.”

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