STATE COLLEGE, Pa. -- Michael Mauti passed on the chance Wednesday to talk about his snub on the list of quarter-finalists for the Lombardi Award, but others at Penn State spoke up and expressed surprise at the move.
"If he's not one of the top five linebackers in the country, I'm not sure who is," Penn State coach Bill O'Brien said. "I'm not sure who chooses those things. I have no idea how any of that works, but I'd say, in my opinion, that's a mistake not having him on the Lombardi List. He's having a hell of a year."
The Lombardi Award, given annually to the nation's top lineman or linebacker, named its top 25 players Saturday. Four Big Ten players were included on the list, but Penn State was shut out.
Linebacker Gerald Hodges and defensive tackle Jordan Hill were mentioned on the Lombardi Award's preseason watch list, and Hill said he was surprised his teammate didn't earn some recognition halfway through the season.
"It's disrespectful to how Mauti's been playing all year," Hill said. "He's really been having a great year, and there's not too many guys who have been playing like he is. It's a disappointment but, like I always say, as a football player you use anything as a motivation, and he can use that as motivation."
Mauti, a redshirt senior, was scheduled to address the media Wednesday afternoon but never showed up at the requested time.
His teammates say the soft-spoken linebacker likes to let his play do his talking, and his play has had a lot to say this season. Mauti was twice named Big Ten defensive player of the week, and the Walter Camp Foundation awarded him national defensive player of the week honors after a two-interception performance against Illinois.
Through six games, he boasts a team-high 57 tackles, 2 interceptions, 2 forced fumbles, a fumble recovery, 2.5 tackles for loss, and 4 pass deflections.
The Rotary Club of Houston, which hosts the award, did not immediately return a message seeking comment.