A Reflection of Champions

A Reflection of Champions

Yesterday I caught a reflection. It was a reflection of champions and memories still fresh in the mind. You see, just as I turned to lock my car door, on my way to the grocery store to battle for milk and bread, the reflection in the window caught my eye and a sense of overwhelming pride filled my soul. In that reflection, staring back at me was the image of my still somewhat new gray hoodie (bought from Lions Pride of course). Emblazoned on the front of that hoodie in big, bold, blue and white letters were the words “2016 Big Ten Champions”. I don’t know why it struck me, given the number of times I’ve already worn this hoodie, but as it caught my eye in the reflection, I had no choice but to pause and appreciate just what it meant to us having those Nittany Lions make an unforgettable and improbable run for the ages. As I collected my thoughts, I turned with my chest out ready to battle for that milk and bread with all of my Lion might.

It’s been just over three months since Penn State stood on that stage in front of the season-ending home crowd and raised a Big Ten East Champions trophy. A week later, we watched as thousands of our friends and fellow Penn Staters made an impromptu trip to Indy and witnessed those Nittany Lions roar back against Wisconsin and raise the Big Ten Champs trophy underneath a rain of confetti. A few days later, we huddled en masse with our fingers crossed as our Nittany Lions were left on the outside looking in for a fourth and final slot in the college football playoffs, instead earning a chance to smell the roses. We watched a furious comeback fall just short in the Grandaddy of Them All in Pasadena but the memories were already etched in stone and the statement was already made long before that final second ticked off the clock. By season’s end, Penn State was for real. They were young and rightfully labeled a force to be reckoned with as the new year began. It was a whirlwind of a ride and a ride that none of us will ever forget.

We have all regrettably settled into the long off-season after a season we never wanted to see end. The Nittany Lions of 2017 have quietly gone back to work, unsatisfied and hungry for more. Winter Workouts have come and gone and Saquon Barkley stole the show as the Penn State Football social media team teased us with a slo-mo version of King ‘Quon blazing through his workout’s ending 40-yard dash time. After a few days of keeping us in suspense over his final number, it was eventually revealed that Barkley clocked a stunning 4.3, which only made the pro scouts drool even more over his potential at the next level. We watched Lions battle as they went through speed and agility drills and weight training regiments under the watchful eye of head strength coach, Dwight Galt, the man directly responsible for shaping those Lions into the fourth-quarter comeback kings. It is days like these, in the thick of winter, that begin to shape the mark of champion teams.

As winter workouts ended and spring break began at Penn State, a handful of Nittany Lions showed up in Florida, but with a much more important motive than fun and sun. Saquon Barkley, Marcus Allen, Mark Allen, and DaeSean Hamilton spent the week grinding at a camp run by NFL players including Dak Prescott and Ike Taylor. If you thought that they weren’t serious, then think again. The 2017 Nittany Lions are all business and on a mission.

On Saturday night, junior-to-be QB, Trace McSorley, was in Atlantic City dressed to the nines in a tux as he accepted the Maxwell Trophy for Tri-State player of the year, presented by former Philadelphia Eagle, Brian Westbrook. As he stood on stage with many of the nation’s elite, an image of him and his teammates in action during the Rose Bowl shown bright on the big screen behind them. With spring practice ready to ramp up in one week and the much-anticipated Blue-White weekend in the near-future, we have another opportunity to savor what our Nittany Lions accomplished one season ago. The offseason is never a season we look forward to, but those subtle reflections in the mirror of that championship run have made this one more bearable than most!