Penn State linebacker Michael Mauti will be at the NFL combine this week but he will not participate in any of the on-the-field drills after suffering a third serious knee injury this past November that ended his season.
Mauti, who likely would have been a second or third round prospect had he stayed healthy, vows to return from his latest injury and he let all 32 teams know that, along with how important the game means to him, in the form of a hand written letter that he sent to each and every team.
"I\'ve done it twice now, and I\'m going to do it again," Mauti said of making a comeback, via a story by Scott Brown of the Pittsburgh Tribune Review. "No one was talking about it (in 2012) — the fact that I was coming off an injury, and my play spoke for itself."
Brown reports that Mauti is currently training with a former Penn State teammate just outside of New Orleans and regularly working out as many as six hours a day.
"You wouldn\'t know this kid has had a knee injury at all," said Jason DeMelo of Xcel Sports Performance. "He\'s killing everything. He just works hard, heals quickly."
Mauti was recognized as a team leader for the Nittany Lions and that leadership reportedly help keep several of his teammates from transferring to another school after several sanctions were handed down from the NCAA in the wake of the Jerry Sandusky investigation.
Pittsburgh Steelers general manager Kevin Colbert was asked Thursday about receiving his letter from Mauti. Colbert, who normally has a policy about not commenting about a specific player during the combine, or any other time for that matter leading up to the draft, somewhat made an exception in this case.
"It\'s rare to get one of those," Colbert said while smiling. "Occasionally you\'ll come across a few, but not very often."
The Steelers will more than likely be looking for help at the inside linebacker position on drafty day and they could address that position in any round. Mauti should pass the interview test at that combine with flying colors, but could wind up going undrafted just the same because of his injury. Several teams, depending on what they deem the long-term prognosis on Mauti is, could be battling to sign him immediately after the draft as free agent.
Is Mauti worth a seventh-round selection by the Steelers to keep from having to bid for him after the draft, especially if they have already drafted another inside linebacker in an earlier round? It is too early to tell as it all depends on how the draft goes for starters and who is left on the board on that time in addition.
It would be a hell of a risk, but there won\'t be many players left on the board that late with the upside that Mauti offers, if he indeed can return a third time.
"I wanted to let people in the NFL know I was going to be ready to play," Mauti said, via Brown, "and I plan on playing in the fall."
I, for one, wouldn\'t bet against that plan. Will the Steelers? Can Linebacker U deliver one more to the city of Pittsburgh?