Big Ten rankings: No. 3, Michael Mauti

February, 22, 2013
2/22/13
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There are only three players left on our Big Ten postseason player rankings, which are based on 2012 performance only. We'll unveil No. 2 later today and the No. 1 player on our list Monday.

Checking in at No. 3 is the man who might well have had the No. 1 inspirational story in the Big Ten in 2012 ...

No. 3: Michael Mauti, LB, Penn State, senior, 6-foot-2, 232 pounds

Preseason ranking: Not ranked

2012 numbers: Recorded 96 tackles, including 2.5 sacks and four tackles for loss, plus three interceptions and three forced fumbles in 11 games.

Why he's here: It was a startling image, in the season finale against Wisconsin, to see the normally plain Penn State helmets prominently displaying Mauti's No. 42 on them.

What made it odder was that Mauti hadn't died, or been paralyzed, or stricken with some life-threatening disease. He'd torn up his knee again, something he'd unfortunately become all too familiar with as a collegian, and thus was unable to play in his final game for the Nittany Lions. Yet his teammates and coaches thought so much of him that they made that bold gesture to honor him on senior day.

"He embodies, in my opinion, what Penn State is all about," head coach Bill O'Brien said last November.

And that's ultimately, why we rank Mauti so high on this list. He meant so much to the Penn State team and community all season long. It began in the summer, when he and Michael Zordich stood up and loudly declared their loyalty to the school on behalf of the players after the NCAA levied its historically harsh sanctions against the program. Mauti unwittingly became the face of the team, especially with his strong comments at Big Ten media day.

Though his troublesome knees again prevented him from playing a full season, he did perform at full strength for almost all of 2012, showing us what he could do when healthy. Simply put, he was a destructive force who always seemed to be in the middle of every big play defensively. That's why we chose him as our Big Ten defensive player of the year and why he made the ESPN.com All-America team.

If there were any doubt about Mauti's value to Penn State, just listen to what fellow star linebacker Gerald Hodges said after his friend injured his knee against Indiana: "If I could give him one of my knees, I would, man," Hodges said. "He's the heart and soul of this team."

The countdown

No. 25: Denard Robinson, QB, Michigan
No. 24: Michael Carter, CB, Minnesota
No. 23: Kain Colter, QB, Northwestern
No. 22: Spencer Long, G, Nebraska
No. 21: Carlos Hyde, RB, Ohio State
No. 20: Ameer Abdullah, RB, Nebraska
No. 19: Darqueze Dennard, CB, Michigan State
No. 18: Mike Taylor, LB, Wisconsin
No. 17: Jake Ryan, LB, Michigan
No. 16: Bradley Roby, CB, Ohio State
No. 15: Max Bullough, LB, Michigan State
No. 14: Matt McGloin, QB, Penn State
No. 13: Chris Borland, LB, Wisconsin
No. 12: Johnathan Hankins, DT, Ohio State
No. 11: Allen Robinson, WR, Penn State
No. 10: Ryan Shazier, LB, Ohio State
No. 9: Venric Mark, RB, Northwestern
No. 8: Jordan Hill, DT, Penn State
No. 7: Taylor Lewan, LT, Michigan
No. 6: Le'Veon Bell, RB, Michigan State
No. 5: Taylor Martinez, QB, Nebraska
No. 4: John Simon, DE, Ohio State

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