Mauti pushing rehab after third ACL surgery

Michael Mauti knew his draft stock would fall with a third ACL surgery, which is why he sent a letter to general managers and continues to make his push to return by training camp.

It's always a struggle for rookie prospects to sit and wait for their name to be called. But when you're a talented player who is coming off his third torn ACL injury, it's exponentially worse.

Vikings seventh-round linebacker Michael Mauti wasn't sure if anyone was going to make the call to inform him that he had been drafted after undergoing his third knee surgery to repair a torn ACL last November. He was so concerned that he sent a letter to all 32 general managers informing them that he was going to rehabbing as hard as he possibly could and would be good to go by the time the summer workout programs would be starting up. For Mauti, the waiting was the hardest part.

"I really tried to go into this draft without any expectations just because I understand my situation medically," Mauti said. "It got more and more difficult as it went on, but I couldn't be happier to get picked by such a great organization."

Mauti expects to be limited at next weekend's rookie minicamp but has high hopes of being ready to, as he puts it, "start flying around" by June or July. He knows from where he speaks when it comes to spending the grueling hours of rehabilitation that are required to come back from a significant knee injury. He tore his right ACL in a 2009 practice and missed the entire season, suffered a torn left ACL in the fourth game of the 2011 season and suffered the most recent injury to his left knee in November, cutting his season short.

Undaunted by the difficult process of healing and regaining the strength in his knee, he is well on his way to once again start making a full recovery.

"With the most recent injury, I've been rehabbing and getting back," Mauti said. "I feel great. I've been sprinting and doing some things as far as agility. It's going to be a good summer of getting therapy, getting right and healthy and being ready for preseason camp."

One of the driving forces behind Mauti's dogged determination to play is that he has natural leadership qualities. He was a vocal on-field leader and, when he was injured, he was a vocal sideline cheerleader for his teammates. At no point were those leadership qualities put to the test more than last season. With Penn State rocked by the sex-abuse scandal that led to the ouster of coaching legend Joe Paterno, Mauti was one of the players who took the team under his wing. The result was expected to be a tragic season with a dark cloud hanging over it. Instead, thanks in no small part to Mauti's role as a team captain, it was the most enjoyable season of his football career.

"I think just going through the situations we went through at Penn State, was we kind of unprecedented given the whole scandal, we were able to kind of take control of our program," Mauti said. "We viewed the adversity as an opportunity for us to show a lot of positives in a very screwed-up situation. It was as much fun last season as I've had playing in any other season."

One of the biggest upsides for Mauti will be that he will remain teammates with fellow Nittany Lions linebacker Gerald Hodges, who was picked five hours earlier Saturday by the Vikings. Mauti knows he has a long road ahead of him to make the Vikings roster, but having a friend with him along the way will be a big bonus.

"I couldn't be happier to be playing with Gerald," Mauti said. "It's a great support structure. You kind of have a familiar face to go through the new process with. I couldn't be happier with this situation. It's a great opportunity we both have ahead of us."

John Holler has been writing about the Vikings for more than a decade for Viking Update. Follow Viking Update on Twitter and discuss this story on our subscriber message board.

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