CHICAGO -- His email inbox filled up quickly, as did the list of missed calls on his cell phone. Penn State linebacker Michael Mauti is all of a sudden a very popular man.
He loves the emails. They've come from strangers wishing him and the team success. The phone calls ... not so much.
He's gotten as many as 10 calls a day in the past four days. While some of the calls are also from well-wishers, he also has had some less-welcome calls. Forty schools, he said, have contacted him about transferring.
It's been that kind of week for Penn State players. On one hand, alumni and fans have provided the kindest, strongest support they could imagine, making them wonder why they'd ever leave. On the other, there's the temptation to transfer. Plenty of Division I schools are calling, schools that can compete for national championships and play in bowl games, unlike Penn State.
Mauti, John Urschel and Jordan Hill, Penn State's player contingent at the Big Ten media days, have all said they would stay. Coach Bill O'Brien said no players have yet made the decision to leave. The three players and their coach add that a strong "core" has joined their pledge.
That "core" is made up of 50-plus players who have said they would stay at Penn State, O'Brien said. He declined to comment on whether star running back Silas Redd was one of them. Mauti said the projected starting defense has committed to stay even though they are playing for nothing besides a regular season.
"I'm not going to sugarcoat it, but I have brothers here who are going to stick it out with me," Mauti said.
Mauti and Urschel said the decision to stay was not difficult, nor has it been tough to press the ignore button on their cell phones. They've lived and breathed Penn State for years.
On Monday, the team gathered at the Lasch football building to watch the NCAA news conference. The seniors affirmed their loyalty immediately after. Conversations between underclassmen differed.
Mauti listened around. They had doubts. And he gets it. He and Urschel have counseled several players who are considering transferring, advising them to take their time deciding.
"We're a family here," Urschel said. "If anyone decides to leave, I'll wish them the best."
The players present in Chicago say all players, whether committed to stay or considering their options, have been working out. Everyone has been passing the conditioning tests. They can't get enough football right now. These are the only places the players can find peace: the gym, the film room, the indoor facility, the locker room.
Mauti posted about 15 of the supportive emails he's received this week on the locker room walls. He's been particularly struck by the messages he has received from two faculty members at Penn State.
One wrote to say he would attend the season opener, his first game in four years. Another wrote that he would attend his first game in 10 years.
They get the spirit that Mauti is trying to spread. Penn State's roots run deep, but he acknowledged that growth is necessary as the program moves forward.
"This is the first year of Penn State football in my mind," he said.psusports