SAN ANTONIO - Lucky for Michael Mauti, he had a short flight here for the U.S. Army All-American Bowl or Sunday could have been much more nerve-wracking.
"It was the longest flight ever," said Mauti, a Mandeville, La., native. "Coming here, it was like a 30-minute flight and I was shaking but it's awesome to go against the best talent in the country and see where I measure up."
Mauti, a 6-foot-2, 215-pound inside linebacker, is set to enroll early at Penn State in a few weeks but first he wants to challenge himself at the U.S. Army game. Rated as the 41st best player at his position in the 2008 class, Mauti said getting to college ahead of time will be beneficial in many ways.
"I have a whole semester being there and I have spring practice," he said. "Even if I end up do getting redshirted, which I don't know what's going to happen, even if I do I'm still going to have the experience from the spring and I know where I'm going to fit in with everybody. I'll get the defense in my head and learn everything. It will be a great learning tool."
Mauti has a family tradition with the Nittany Lions. His father, Rich, played for Penn State before a multi-year career in the NFL and his brother, Patrick, is currently on the team.
Still, Mauti, who finished with 121 tackles as a junior, said he had considered other schools including Florida, Oklahoma, Nebraska and Arkansas before verbally committing to Penn State on June 24. His parents were in town Saturday to watch the Nittany Lions take on Texas A&M in the Alamo Bowl. He arrived the next morning.
Performing well during U.S. Army week is first on Mauti's agenda. Then it's getting ready to leave Louisiana to start his college career at Penn State in January.
"I spent some time with (junior outside linebacker) Sean Lee on my official visit and I've been up there a bunch of times," Mauti said. "I'm going up in a few weeks and starting school. I'm really looking forward to going up there and working with him and everyone else."