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Michael Mauti Coaches His Alma Mater After an NFL Career Cut Short

Welcome to "Why We Play," a series of discussions with current players and NFL Legends about their youth football experience and why they play the game.


Michael Mauti thought baseball was his sport, until it wasn’t.

Mauti, who was a standout linebacker at Penn State before a five-year NFL career with the Minnesota Vikings and New Orleans Saints, spent most of his youth on the baseball diamond.

“I played travel (baseball),’’ Mauti said. “We went all over the place. Baseball is what I wanted to do. I was smaller; I didn’t hit a growth spurt until I was about 14 or 15.’’

As he got bigger, he tried football and decided it was better to hit a quarterback or a running back than it was to hit a baseball.

“I had played with my older brother and his friends and got beat up a lot,’’ Mauti said of his early football experiences. “My first real football came when I was in the seventh, or eighth, grade.’’

Mauti’s father, Richard, played eight years in the NFL as a wide receiver for New Orleans and Washington, so the genes were there. Michael just needed to try them on.  

“I knew (football was his game) when I had my first real hit,’’ Mauti said. “I threw my body at this cat, I think it was 8th grade, I got up and it felt as good as anything I ever felt. I was hooked.’’

Mauti turned a good career at Mandeville High, just across the lake from New Orleans, into a scholarship at Penn State and a career in the NFL. He learned the game from both his father and his coaches on the youth level in Mandeville

“My dad never coached me, but he gave me the mental aspect of the sport,’’ Mauti said. “The mental aspect of team, the mental aspect of training, ‘This is how you do it.’ The work ethic, the fundamentals of how you get where you want to go.’’

When his playing career ended just before the start of the 2018 season, thanks to ulcerative colitis, he went back a year later to Mandeville High School and coached the linebackers and special teams at his old school.

Things had changed over the years as he quickly found out, but deep down the players were still players and his message and knowledge were much-needed. 

“In today’s world it’s more talking to the parents, then talking to the kids,’’ Mauti said. “They put so much pressure on their kids, thinking they have to be these specialists with these personal trainers and all that. Just let the kids play, teach them the fundamentals, make sure they have a good attitude, be a team player, be unselfish. You know, the name on the front is more important than name on the back, all of that. That’s what I tried to get across to the team.

“It was different then what I expected at first. Technology has changed everything, but once you got the kids off their phones and off whatever social media they were on, they were still kids. They wanted to learn the game.’’

And Mauti was happy to teach them.

“It felt good to go back and give back to where it all started for me,’’ he said. “I liked the teaching and being able to mold character. I felt fulfilled. I forgot how much I had to offer.’’

(Photo credit: AP Photo/Ann Heisenfelt)


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