MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — When the Vikings open the season against the Lions on Sunday, it’ll be an exciting day for a couple of Nittany Lions, who will make their NFL debut.
They might be rookies, but their experience at Penn State forever changed Michael Mauti and Gerald Hodges.
It makes sense why the Vikings drafted two linebackers from Penn State: It’s always been known as Linebacker U.
“That’s the reason I went to Penn State,” Mauti said.
But lately, of course, Penn State has been known much more for something else, former defensive coordinator Jerry Sandusky was convicted of sexually abusing children.
Before they were Vikings, Hodges and Mauti led their teammates through the unimaginable.
“Just being there for one another,” is what Hodges said he learned from the experience. “Knowing that you’ve got another family, knowing it’s not all about football. It’s a brotherhood at the same time, while you’re going through everything you’re going through.”
What Hodges and Mauti went through last year was unprecedented — playing under the cloud of the most horrific sports scandal in history, and some of the toughest sanctions ever handed down by the NCAA. And you can’t go through something like that without it changing you.
“If anything, that kind of adversity that we had, going through something that no other college team had to go through, just kind of gives us that experience,” Mauti said. “So we could pretty much handle anything as far as adversity now.”
They didn’t have to go through it. The NCAA sanctions would’ve allowed them to transfer anywhere without penalty. Neither even considered it.
“When you’re part of that school, you’re a part of that family at Penn State,” Mauti said. “It is something that’s close to your heart. Something that we had to fight for so hard last year, and something that I’ll continue to support, as long as I’m living.”
“We didn’t do everything the same as everyone else did,” Hodges said. “So that’s big for me. Because you don’t ever want to follow in someone’s footsteps. You want to be that leader.”