STATE COLLEGE -- Michael found out Friday night about one of the tributes. Gerald Hodges, his roommate before home games at the team hotel, had asked to wear his No. 42 for their final game of the season.
And that's all Mauti was expecting.
Instead, when he arrived in the locker room at Beaver Stadium, he saw his number everywhere.
On the left side of every helmet in front of every locker was No. 42.
I can't tell you, Mauti said after the Nittany Lions' 24-21 overtime win against Wisconsin, how special that is. So honored just to be a part of this.
The senior linebacker had his season cut short by a serious knee injury last week against Indiana, forcing him to the sideline with a headset instead of his own helmet.
As he had earlier in the week, Mauti declined to discuss the exact nature of his injury as well as potentially applying for a sixth season of eligibility.
It's not the right time now, Mauti said. I really just wanna keep the focus on this team. What better way to end the season like that.
Coach Bill O'Brien said a group of seniors came to him during the week with the idea for the helmet.
It was the first time Penn State has worn numbers on its helmet since Jan. 1, 1975, against Baylor in the Cotton Bowl. It was a staple of the uniform in the early years of Joe Paterno's head coaching tenure from 1967 until the end of the 1974 season, with each player wearing his own number on both sides of their helmet.
It wasn't the only surprise on the day. On suggestion from acting athletic director Dave Joyner, Penn State put 2012 up on the east side of the stadium, joining the program's undefeated seasons as well as their national title and Big Ten title season.
The team unveiled it by pulling off a white tarp after the seniors were introduced before kickoff.
Lions honor 31
The captains were five of 31 players to be honored before the game as they suited up for Penn State for the final time.
Here is the full list. All players had senior eligibility unless noted.
Junior OL Mark Arcidiacono, P Joe Baker, FB P.J. Byers, DT Cody Castor, TB Derek Day, FB Andre Dupree, LS Emery Etter, SS Jacob Fagnano, OT Mike Farrell, junior OL Frank Figueroa.
Sophomore DB Patrick Flanagan, LS Michael Fuhrman, DT Jordan Hill, LB Gerald Hodges, TE Brian Irvin, junior WR Christian Kuntz, WR Evan Lewis, DE Pete Massaro, LB Michael Mauti, QB Matt McGloin.
QB Shane McGregor, CB Stephon Morris, junior FB J.R. Refice (Valley View), C Matt Stankiewitch, DE Sean Stanley, DT James Terry, LB Jamie Van Fleet, junior QB Garrett Venuto, junior DB Mike Wallace, LB Mike Yancich, RB Michael Zordich.