The wait, Gerald Hodges said, was getting a little frustrating. That held true for all of Penn State’s seniors on Saturday.
But at the end of the final day of the 2013 NFL Draft, Hodges was reunited with Michael Mauti, as both linebackers were selected by the Minnesota Vikings.
It just took a little extra time for it to happen.
Hodges went in the fourth round with the 120th overall pick. Minnesota followed that up late in the day by snagging Mauti in the seventh round with the 213th overall pick.
The duo Hodges joined defensive tackle Jordan Hill, who was drafted on Friday in the third round by the Seattle Seahawks. The group that formed the heart of Penn State’s defense gave the school 332 players drafted into the NFL all-time.
A handful of other Penn State seniors will look to catch on as free agents in the next few days. Center Matt Stankiewitch and cornerback Stephon Morris were among the most wanted of available Nittany Lion, as both are reportedly set to sign with the New England Patriots.
Other Penn State free agents include QB Matt McGloin, FB Michael Zordich, OT Mike Farrell, DE Sean Stanley, DE Pete Massaro and DT James Terry.
But Saturday was about the linebackers. And it started with Hodges.
Never bashful about his NFL aspirations, Hodges was getting particularly antsy on this afternoon. Rated as a potential second-day selection in the second or third round coming out of the combine, the dynamic linebacker was still on the board when Friday night ended.
As the first handful of picks went by on Saturday, Hodges got sick of watching the TV and waiting for his phone to ring. So to relieve some stress, he went to take a quick shower.
“As I’m getting out of the shower, I hear my phone ringing,” Hodges said in a conference call with Minnesota media. “And I wasn’t in a rush to get to my phone because I didn’t know what it was. I get over here and I see Minnesota, and I looked at the board and saw Minnesota was up in two picks.
“And I just started crying. I just couldn’t believe it. It’s a blessing.”
He would be even happier a few hours later when learning his running mate Mauti would be joining him.
Mauti’s talent and leadership could have earned him as high as a second-round selection, right in the same range as successful predecessors Paul Posluszny and Sean Lee.
All of that was overshadowed by three ACL surgeries in five years for Mauti at Penn State, the latest coming in late November. And while Mauti has had an especially speedy recovery by all indications, it wasn’t enough to overcome that sort of injury history.
“He’s the guy who held it all together up there … he’s deserving of a chance in this league,” former Buffalo Bills and Indianapolis Colts architect Bill Polian said on ESPN. “Tough, hard-nosed player. Smart. Very, very tough.”
Mauti said Saturday that he expects to be ready to go full speed by the time training camp opens in July.
“That’s my goal, and that’s where I plan on being,” Mauti said on a separate conference call.
Hodges and Mauti give Penn State nine active linebackers in the NFL, joining Posluszny, Lee, NaVorro Bowman, Dan Connor, Tim Shaw, Josh Hull and Nate Stupar.
And now two of them will be playing together in Minnesota, coached by Hall of Fame linebacker Mike Singletary, their new position coach.
“I think it should be illegal for me and Mauti to be on the same team again,” Hodges exulted on his Twitter account. “But hey I don’t make the rules we just abide by them!”
Add one more to the list
One other familiar name came had his name called on Saturday. Former Penn State wideout Justin Brown was drafted in the sixth round by the Pittsburgh Steelers with the 186th overall pick. Brown transferred to Oklahoma over the summer.