When he was sidelined for his final collegiate game, his teammates wore his number on their helmets. At that point it was clear, Mike Mauti was the emotional leader of the Nittany Lions, who have endured so much in the 2012 season.
Over the weekend, they made it official: The senior linebacker is their most valuable player, too.
The co-captain, who helped anchor Penn State to an 8-4 finish, was named the team's MVP at the senior banquet on Sunday.
Mauti is the fourth linebacker to be selected Penn State's Outstanding Senior Player since the award's inception in 1978. He joins All-Americans Shane Conlan (1986), Paul Posluszny (2006) and Dan Connor (2007).
Mauti was the only Big Ten player ranked in the top 10 in the conference in tackles (7th, 96), interceptions (4th, 3) and forced fumbles (3rd, 3). He also led the Big Ten in interception return yards (125). Mauti had 4.0 TFL, 2.5 sacks (minus-25), three interceptions, three forced fumbles, one fumble recovery and two pass break-ups. He started the initial 11 games, suffering a knee injury in the first quarter vs. Indiana on Nov. 17 that ended his season.
Here are some other awards handed out on Sunday:
Coaches' Award (senior that exhibits pride, dedication, commitment and exemplary leadership in addition to outstanding performance): linebacker Gerald Hodges and cornerback Stephon Morris.
Football Letterman's Club Joe and Sue Paterno Post-Graduate Scholarship ($5,000 check for financial assistance for graduate school): long snapper Emery Etter
Reid-Robinson Award (outstanding defensive lineman): defensive tackle Jordan Hill and defensive end Sean Stanley- John Bruno, Jr. Memorial Award (outstanding member of special teams) – senior running back Derek Day (Harrisburg) and linebacker Michael Yancich (Washington);
Ridge Riley Award (senior for "sportsmanship, scholarship, leadership and friendship"): defensive end Pete Massaro and quarterback Matt McGloin
Richard Maginnis Memorial Award (outstanding offensive lineman): tackle Mike Farrell and center Matt Stankiewitch
Robert B. Mitinger, Jr. Award (senior who exhibits courage, character and social responsibility): full back Michael Zordich
Outstanding Run-on Award (Run-on player who exemplifies total commitment, loyalty, hard work and courage): long snapper Michael Fuhrman and tight end J.R. Refice
The Nittany Lion Club Academic Achievement Award (senior with highest GPA): quarterback Shane McGregor, who has a 3.85 grade point average.