Michael Mauti not only could solve the Vikings’ lack of depth at linebacker, but he could also be the NFL Defensive Rookie of the Year if he could get playing time, on the basis of what he did in college when he was healthy.
When the Vikings drafted Mauti in the seventh round of the draft, they were taking a calculated risk. Last year, he was one of the best linebackers in the country, recording 93 tackles in 11 games for Penn State.
But the first team All-America struggled with knee injuries throughout college. He tore his anterior cruciate ligament three times, including a tear in his left knee that ended his college career Nov. 17.
So it was somewhat surprising to find that Mauti was not on the physically unable to perform list and instead ready to go for training camp.
Vikings General Manager Rick Spielman talked about what the team has been seeing from Mauti.
“We actually went ahead and cleared him. We went full-go practice, and it will be interesting to see what he does with pads on,” Spielman said last week. “We’ve seen him run around in shorts through the offseason and through these first two days of training camp. We’re very excited to see where all these guys are when we put the pads on. We still have a long way to go.”
Following the draft in April, Mauti talked about how even then, he believed he would be ready to play by training camp. He also talked about how going to the Vikings, the team that saw Adrian Peterson come off major knee surgery with an MVP season with the help of the athletic staff, made him feel like he could be ready to play.
“Absolutely that gives me confidence,” Mauti told the Vikings website in April. “I spoke a little bit with the doctors at the combine and they were confident in the way the MRIs looked. I had a great surgeon and Dr. James Bradley with the Steelers did my surgery. So they understand where I am at, and I think it is going to be a great relationship as far as when I’ll be ready. I think I will be ready by preseason camp so that is my goal and where I plan on being.”
If Mauti stays healthy, Penn State coaches are convinced he will be a starter for the Vikings and one of the best rookie linebackers in the NFC.
And so far in training camp, Mauti has been one of the real surprises the way he has performed. He will fill a position that is in need.
Senior Games coming here
The Senior Games are held every other year, and they recently finished their run this year in Cleveland, where the event drew 10,800 athletes aged 50 and up.
The 2015 games will be held July 3-17, 2015, and the host cities are Minneapolis, St. Paul and Bloomington, whose convention bureaus combined to bid for and win the games in 2010. There will be 18 medal competitions in various age groups in the following sports: archery, basketball, cycling, horseshoes, racquetball, shuffleboard, swimming, tennis, triathlon, volleyball, badminton, bowling, golf, race walk, road racing, table tennis, softball and track and field. The events will take place at various venues all around the Twin Cities.
This is the largest gathering of senior athletes in the world, and athletes need to qualify in 2014 in state games around the nation. Local co-chairs Dave Mona and Susan Adams Loyd will head the effort to raise about $4 million to put on the games.
While the Big Ten media picked the Gophers football team to finish last in its division in preseason polls, Jerry Kill has gone through that in the past and doesn’t put too much stock in predictions.
“Where I’ve been before, whether it was Year 1, 2 or 3, that’s where it is when you’re building a program,” Kill said. “You have to prove that you can win in the Big Ten consistently, and we haven’t done that. But I think all the media days, the predictions, I think that’s great for college football, but I never, ever paid attention to it.
“Where I’ve been before, we’ve been picked to win it all and not win any, and those things usually have turned out differently. Our big focus is what we can control, and I think our kids feel good about the progress we’ve made in our program. At the end of the day, you have to win on the field, that’s where it counts.”
Funds for intramural athletics
The University of Minnesota administration doesn’t have any funds to appropriate money toward the $190 million needed to upgrade the varsity athletic facilities, but the school did find $59.6 million to upgrade the University Recreation and Wellness Center to a 114,000-square foot facility that will be opening next month.
In other news at the university, according to Owatonna High School coach Jeff Williams, defensive lineman Andrew Stelter, who recently committed to the Gophers, was offered a full ride by Duke, and also financial aid by Harvard and Yale.
“He excels in the classroom, which allowed him to chose among some very fine schools,” Williams said.
From a football standpoint, Williams reported that Stelter is a physical player who is difficult to block and very quick and fast for a player his size.
• Timberwolves owner Glen Taylor is in the process of negotiating a lease with the owners of the Block E complex across from Target Center to build a headquarters for the basketball team, one that would include a practice facility and office space that is lacking at the arena.
• Vikings coach Leslie Frazier was asked if this is as healthy as he seen defensive end Brian Robison, who played banged up last year. “It really is,” Frazier said. “He is moving around extremely well. I like his enthusiasm and passion, he practices the same way he plays. To see him healthy as he is without any hamstring injuries or a nagging shoulder, it’s good. We hope to maintain that through training camp.”
• Last year, Vikings center John Sullivan pledged $150,000 to make a new University of Minnesota Amplatz Children’s Hospital playground possible. To support his effort, linebacker Chad Greenway donated $25,000 through his “Lead the Way” Foundation, while the Vikings, through the Children’s Fund, contributed $25,000 for the $200,000 project.
• While Percy Harvin got most of the attention out of Seattle last week, former Vikings receiver Sidney Rice returned to the Seahawks after going to Switzerland to undergo a nonsurgical treatment on his injured knee.
• Former Gophers forward Trevor Mbakwe has signed with Acea Virtus in Italy for the upcoming basketball season. The team plays in Serie-A, the top league in the country. Also on the team is former Wisconsin standout and Benilde-St. Margaret’s product Jordan Taylor.
• Glen Perkins gave up a run for the third time in four games Friday night, when Houston took a 3-2 ninth-inning lead at Target Field. But the Twins came back to win, as they did the other two times Perkins gave up a run.