It is official: Michael Mauti will not be playing in the final game of the football season against Wisconsin this coming Saturday after injuring his left knee early in the Indiana game. On what looked to be an illegal chop block, Hoosiers running back D’Angelo Roberts dove at Mauti’s knee while he was already engaged in a high block. He grimaced in pain and had to be carted off of the field, eventually coming back to the sideline on crutches.
While the extent of Mauti’s injury is not yet known, it is assumed that he seriously hurt his left knee — potentially re-tearing the ACL — and will spend significant time rehabbing. An injury like that can take as long as nine months to fully recover from, which would mean that Mauti could potentially be off of a football field until August, long after the NFL Draft, which takes place annually in April. He was expected to be a late second round selection.
But if his injury prevents him from performing tryouts for teams and making it to the NFL Combine, that could seriously hurt his draft stock, especially if he is expected to still be in the rehab process when NFL training camp begins over the summer. So you cannot help but wonder, if Mauti had the option to spend another year with the Penn State Nittany Lions football team to fully recover before going pro, would he?
Despite reports that Mauti’s time as a Nittany Lion has officially come to an end, it seems that he might be eligible for a sixth year with the team under the NCAA’s medical redshirt rules. Mauti used a medical redshirt during his sophomore year, which he missed the entirety of after tearing his right ACL in August 2009, but there is no rule that forbids a player from using the medical redshirt twice, and Mauti’s 2011 junior season seems to be eligible for that label.
Here’s the relevant excerpt from the NCAA’s Hardship Waiver bylaw:
“In team sports, the injury or illness occurs when the student-athlete has not participated in more than three contests or dates of competition (whichever is applicable to that sport) or 30 percent (whichever number is greater) of the institution’s scheduled or completed contests or dates of competition in his or her sport.”
Let’s break that down. If the player requesting a medical redshirt has played in no more than 30 percent of the scheduled contests when suffering the season-ending injury, he or she is eligible for the hardship waiver. There are 12 scheduled contests in the football season, which makes 30 percent of the season 3.6 games.
Mauti played in four games last year before going down with an injury, but the NCAA rounds up, which means that he did “not [participate]in more than … 30 percent of the institution’s scheduled or completed contests” in 2011. The Penn State football team would have to fill out a Hardship Waiver form and submit to the NCAA to give Mauti a sixth year of eligibility, but it seems that is simply a formality.
It might not make much sense for Mauti to play next season, but it might make sense for him to stick around for a year to fully recover before trying to go pro. In order to avoid further injury, Mauti could serve in a student-coach/graduate assistant type of role as he gets back to full strength in time for the 2014 draft season.
Perhaps it is just wishful thinking, but it is interesting to know that there might be a spot for Mauti on the roster next year if he wants it.