From Little Lion to the Pinnacle…..

From Little Lion to the Pinnacle…..

A little over a month ago, I wrote a piece titled “The Ultimate Underdog” as an ode to the once-in-a-lifetime season that Carl Nassib managed to put together as a senior in 2015; from unknown walk-on to Lombardy Award winner. At the time, there wasn’t a better story in college football. His tale quickly became one of legendary status, especially within the friendly confines of Happy Valley. Penn State has had a storied history with the underdog. From Wally Triplett in 1947 and the birth of “We Are” as our chant of defiance, to the 1986 National Champions who stared a bully in the eye. From Matt McGloin and the rest of his 2012 teammates who refused to lay down and go away, to Nassib who was told he did not belong.

As the 2015 football season came to an end with Super Bowl 50, another Nittany Lion underdog rose and stamped his name in the NFL record books. Jordan Norwood, a former walk-on and Little Lion from State College who was a key player in Penn State’s return to prominence in 2005, helped seal an unlikely victory for Peyton Manning and the Denver Broncos with his 61-yard punt return; the longest in Super Bowl history. On the heels of National Signing Day, as we all spent the week dissecting names and faces who have yet to don the coveted plain blue or white jersey, a former two-star recruit who garnered a grand total of one scholarship offer (Bucknell) was busy helping his team reach the pinnacle. Just goes to show that while we all panic and moan over the value of a star beside ones name, there continue to be diamonds in the rough that rise above the stars. Jordan Norwood is a testament to that.

In other news this week, the Varsity “S” Club welcomed 13 new Lettermen into its fraternity. Saquon Barkley, Nick Scott, Brandon Polk, Troy Apke, Joe Julius, Tyler Davis, Noah Bey, Mark Allen, DeAndre Thompkins, John Reid, Jake Cooper, Manny Bowen, and Koa Farmer all received the honor as true or redshirt freshmen and all were major contributors this past season. Speaking of Nick Scott, he has officially made the switch from a soon-to-be overcrowded backfield and moved to safety to help with depth. Long-snapper Ty Yazujian earned a scholarship heading into his senior season and Penn State added another preferred walk-on commitment from Gateway H.S. Safety Dominic Fultz. For all those armchair quarterbacks and keyboard warriors out there, on Monday Febuary 15th, Penn State will hold a meeting in the Lasch Building for anyone interested in a tryout as a walk-on. Time to put away those typing fingers and put your money where your mouth is!

The NFL Combine is just around the corner, Febuary 23-29, and Nittany Lions Christian Hackenberg, Jordan Lucas, Austin Johnson, Anthony Zettel and the ultimate underdog himself, Carl Nassib, have all been extended and accepted invitations to participate. Finally, perhaps the biggest Lion of them all in terms of heart and his passion for Penn State, Mike Mauti was awarded the special teams player of the year award for the New Orleans Saints this past week. It may not be much, but it’s a start and we all owe a debt of gratitude to the man that faced the cameras and carried Nittany Nation on his shoulders.

Amidst all the hoopla of faxes, letters of intent, and the celebration of what could be that comes with National Signing Day, the 2016 version of Penn State Football quietly set sail on its new journey as winter workouts officially began. The kickoff time for the annual Blue/White Game on April 16th was set this week and will take place at for 2PM. As the cold air whips and old man winter continues to rear his ugly head, I can’t help but wonder if the next Matt McGloin, Carl Nassib, or Jordan Norwood has set sail on a journey of his own. Another diamond in the rough. Only time will tell, but given our history with the underdog, somewhere walking the halls of Lasch, on the turf of Holuba Hall, or under the guidance of strength coach Dwight Galt, sits the next little Lion ready to take his turn on the pinnacle.