On a night when Steve Gleason was being honored, Michael Mauti recalled one of the great moments in Saints history.
And he actually did Gleason, who received the George Halas Award for overcoming adversity before the game, one better.
Not only did Mauti block a punt by Atlanta’s Matt Bosher, but the Mandeville High graduate and the son of former Saints special teams standout Rich Mauti, also recovered the ball in the end zone to give his hometown team a 14-0 lead late in the first quarter of Thursday’s eventual 31-21 victory against the Falcons.
“I don’t think it’s really hit me yet,” said Mauti, who was present for Gleason’s legendary block against the Falcons in the Saints’ 2006 return to the Superdome. “Steve Gleason was my hero then and he is now.
“So to have him here to see this is really amazing. I didn’t get a chance to see him tonight, but I’m going to hook up with him as soon as I can.”
Back in 2006, it was Curtis Deloatch who actually fell on the ball in the end zone after Gleason’s block.
This time, with the Saints in a punt block formation they installed just this week, Mauti brushed by deep snapper Josh Harris and continued untouched, blocking Matt Bosher’s kick before he could get it off.
Mauti then found himself on top of the ball at the 2, got up and went into the end zone for his first touchdown in the NFL and his first since he was an occasional tight end at Mandeville.
“We had a good game plan and we just executed,” said Mauti, who was signed by the Saints in September after being waived by the Minnesota Vikings, which had made him their seventh-round draft pick out of Penn State in 2013. “It was designed for whoever comes free.
“It might not have been me, but nobody picked me up. When the ball rolled up under me, somebody said, ‘Get up,’ so I did and got the touchdown.
The touchdown came with the Saints leading 7-0, but having gone three-and-out after scoring on their first possession.
Kasim Edebali then stopped the Falcons series with an 11-yard sack of Matt Ryan, putting the visitors at their 16.
“You could feel the ’Dome get electric right then,” said Edebali, who was also in on the punt block team. “Somebody said, ‘Let’s get it,’ and the energy just took over.”
Not only did the Mauti’s TD give the Saints a 14-0 lead, it proved to be their only score of the first half.
“That was a pretty important play,” Saints coach Sean Payton said. “We wound up struggling a little on offense after that.
“When you’re playing a good team like Atlanta, every point counts.”
Mauti has been almost exclusively a special teams player in the NFL after being a four-year starter at linebacker at Penn State. Even with the Saints holding a sizable lead Thursday, his play was limited to special teams.
“It’s taken a little adjusting,” he said, “But this is what I do in the NFL, just like my dad.
“You make the most of what you’re given the chance to do.”
Mauti’s TD came with his parents plus brother Patrick and sister Rachel in the stands. But his fiancée, Julia Visconi, was out of town.
“She’s was watching the game,” Michael said. “I’m sure we’ll be talking about it for a long time tonight.”