MANKATO, Minn. - Rookie linebacker Michael Mauti comes from a football family.
His dad and brother both played wide receiver at Penn State University. His father, Rich, even had a 7-year stint in the NFL, mostly with the New Orleans Saints.
Michael Mauti followed in his family's footsteps and quickly became a standout at "Linebacker U." Unfortunately, his college career was marred by injuries.
Mauti was drafted by the Vikings in the 7th round of the 2013 NFL Draft, but due to recovery from a torn anterior cruciate ligament injury in November, Mauti was not able to participate in any of the offseason workouts. He got the green light to practice again on Friday.
"This was my goal to be back here," said Mauti after being cleared to practice. "I wasn't sure if I was going to be able to do as much as I did, actually. But, I prepared like I would."
Last year's ACL surgery was the third in a five-year span for Mauti. He tore his right ACL in 2009 and lost his sophomore season. In 2011, his left ACL gave out. He bounced back with a terrific 2012 campaign earning All-Big Ten and first All-American honors despite missing the last game of the season due to his third ACL injury last November.
Mauti will compete at a position of need for the Vikings. They are looking for someone to step up and fill the hole at middle linebacker, a position played by Jasper Brinkley, who left the team in free agency.
"We want to be able to take a look at him and evaluate him, and now we get a chance to do that," Frazier said. "I know he's anxious to get out there. He's a guy that loves football, and it'll be good for him and good for us."
Erin Henderson and former Packer Desmond Bishop will likely compete for the starting spot, but Mauti has the talent and size to play the position if he can stay healthy.
"They gave me an opportunity. They brought me in here to fight for a spot on the team," Mauti said. "That's all I'm looking at, and I'm just working as hard as I can to help out this team any way I can."
Despite the injury history, Mauti was determined to get back on the field and make his NFL dream come true.
"Just that I can play in this league, that's really what I got to prove to myself," said Mauti. "I think I can and it's just a matter of proving that to the coaches and just earning a spot. That's all I'm looking to do, try to get better every day."
Mauti will likely need to show that he can contribute on special teams to secure a roster spot.
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