Lewis: Former Mandeville star Michael Mauti back home after Saints’ waiver claim _lowres

Minnesota Vikings inside linebacker Michael Mauti (56) talks with a teammate in the first half of a preseason NFL football game against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers at TCF Bank Stadium Saturday, Aug. 15, 2015, in Minneapolis. (AP Photo/Ann Heisenfelt) ORG XMIT: OTKAH101

Good thing Rich and Nancy Mauti kept their baby boy’s room intact for him.

He’s coming home.

Linebacker Michael Mauti, the son of the former Saints wide receiver, was claimed off waivers by his dad’s old team Sunday, a day after being cut by the Minnesota Vikings. Michael Mauti, who prepped at Mandeville, was a seventh-round draft pick out of Penn State, his dad’s alma mater, in 2013.

“It’s unbelievable how things can work out,” Rich Mauti, who played for the Saints from 1977-83, said Monday. “It was crushing to Michael to be cut, because he had a great relationship with the Viking coaches.

“And then there were some other teams ahead of the Saints on the waiver list who had interest in him. But now he’s here, and we’re all absolutely thrilled.”

The younger Mauti arrived in New Orleans late Sunday night and was at the Saints’ training facility in Metairie at 6:30 a.m. Monday for a day of meetings and practice ahead of Sunday’s season opener at Arizona.

“We were going to meet him when his plane landed, but he told us ... he just wanted to go to his hotel room,” Rich Mauti said. “He’s got to start learning a new playbook.

“We’ll catch up when the dust settles.”

The Mautis become the fourth father and son to play for the Saints, following Earl and Brad Leggett, Steve and Mike Stonebreaker and Richard Harvey Sr. and Jr.

But how much, if any, Mauti plays this week remains to be seen. The Saints are healthier at linebacker than the other defensive positions, although Mauti was a solid special teams contributor at Minnesota.

But when the Vikings drafted linebacker Eric Kendricks in the second round this year, and seventh-round pick Edmond Robinson had an outstanding training camp, it became apparent that Mauti was on the bubble.

A late need for an offensive lineman that resulted in the Vikes picking up tackle Jeremiah Sirles off waivers from San Diego sealed Mauti’s fate. Although he was eligible for the practice squad and probably would have been brought back up sooner than later, the Saints put in their claim first.

“The Saints had him on their radar a couple of years ago,” Rich Mauti said. “And he’s shown what he can do on special teams.

“Somewhere along the line, he’s going to get his chance at linebacker, too. Plus, this is a great organization that really cares about its players.”

Still, playing for your hometown team in the NFL can have its pitfalls. Long-lost relatives and old friends can be pesky asking for tickets and more.

But Rich Mauti said he doesn’t believe that will be a concern for his son, who, along with Keenan Lewis and Delvin Breaux will give the Saints three local products.

“If he were coming right out of college, maybe,” Mauti said. “But Michael’s had two years in the league, so he knows the business and he knows how to handle it.

“After all he’s been through, he can handle just about anything.”

Indeed, Mauti has endured more than his share of adversity getting this far.

At Penn State, he suffered three torn ACLs, the last before his final game, which knocked him out of participating at either the combine or Penn State’s pro day, dropping him from a likely second-round draft pick going into the 2012 season to a seventh-round/free-agent evaluation by NFLDraftScout.com.

In fact, the Saints and Pittsburgh were the only teams Mauti visited before the draft, although he sent handwritten notes to all 32 general managers, sharing with them his desire to play in the league.

Additionally, Mauti’s time at Penn State occurred during the Jerry Sandusky scandal that drove Joe Paterno out of coaching.

Mauti became the public face of the program, representing the current players eulogizing Paterno at his funeral and staying for his final season when he could have transferred without sitting out.

And now, after two years with the Vikings, he’s with the team he grew up cheering for — with folks asking him, “Do you want to play for the Saints like your daddy did?” He also had a full Saints uniform and would run around on the floor of the Superdome when he’d attend games.

“We’re going to save a ton of money not having to go Minneapolis for his games any more,” Rich Mauti said. “The last game up there last year, it was 16-below.”

Plus, Michael playing for the Saints means there will be no more rifts in the family such as last season when the Vikings visited and Nancy Mauti and older brother Patrick wore their fear while older sister Rachel stuck with Black & Gold.

Small wonder Mauti tweeted, “The journey continues where it all started…back home in WHO DAT NATION!”

But Michael won’t be a true boomerang kid — an adult child who returns to live with his parents.

Mauti’s fiancée, Juliana Visconi, whom he met while the two were at Penn State, will be joining him soon. And the couple, who plan to be married next June, will have their own place.

“This is a great fit for Michael,” Rich Mauti said. “But the Saints didn’t do this because as a favor for anybody.

“They want people who can play and help them win. I can say modestly and unemotionally that they’re getting a hell of a fighter and a hell of a kid.”