Penn State linebackers Mauti, Hodges motivate each other

Posted: October 26, 2012

STATE COLLEGE - Mike Mauti and Gerald Hodges often find themselves yelling at each other, though it's not in anger.

"Every time he makes a play, I'm the first one there to make sure, 'All right man, that's a good job, now it's my turn,' " Hodges said. "And we just battle, and that's just nothing but friendly competition to make each other better and help the team win."

For Penn State's pair of elite senior outside linebackers, their friendly rivalry is only helping them solidify their representation of "Linebacker U."

And that source of motivation seems to be working, as the two are semifinalists for the Butkus Award, which is annually given to the nation's best linebacker.

Penn State is the only team in the nation with two semifinalists for the Butkus Award.

"We're constantly motivating each other," Mauti said. "We've been competing against each other for 4 or 5 years now. It's been a fun relationship. As far as on the field, we're constantly competing."

Combined, the linebackers have 119 tackles, six pass breakups, four interceptions, three forced fumbles and three Big Ten Defensive Player of the Week awards.

Coach Bill O'Brien knows how important the two have been to his defense as a whole as Penn State (5-2, 3-0 Big Ten) heads into what should be the biggest game of the season, Saturday night against No. 9 Ohio State (8-0, 4-0).

"What I like is when [the defense] makes a play, they are all around each other," O'Brien said. "They really are. And that's what you see with Gerald and Mike. Mike makes a play, Gerald is jumping on his back celebrating with him. Same thing, Gerald makes a play, Mike is right there with him."

Although the two are certainly similar in their on-field production, they're opposites otherwise.

"Mauti can't sit still . . . He just has to be moving around, and I always tell him, 'Man, just sit still,' " Hodges said. "I'm more laid-back, just a chillin'-type of person, but, like I said, when it comes to being on the field, you know we have the same mentality, the same kind of force on the field."

They were two of the most vocal Nittany Lions in support of Penn State after the NCAA handed down its sanctions against the program as a result of the Jerry Sandusky child sex-abuse scandal. Mauti and Hodges have become fan favorites.

Senior defensive tackle Jordan Hill said that after games, Hodges and Mauti will compare statistics as he did last season with lineman Devon Still, now of the NFL's Cincinnati Bengals.

"It's not one of those types of things where he has his stats and I'll get mad; it's just one of those things that motivates each other, because we're both playing so well," Hodges said.

O'Brien doesn't really care about the numbers. He's just fine with having his linebackers play the way they are.

"As far as comparing stats, like I always say, stats are for you-know-what. This is about playing good defensive football and doing the best you can to try to win the game," O'Brien said.

Quote of note

Asked whether he has any empathy for Ohio State's players because they too are under NCAA sanctions, quarterback Matt McGloin said, "Oh no, absolutely not. I mean, after what we've gone through, I don't feel bad for anybody or any program. That's it."

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