Make Room for Two

Make Room for Two

In 1973 John Cappelletti won college football's most coveted individual honor, the Heisman Trophy. Penn State went undefeated that year and was built around Cappy's exploits as he rushed for over 1,500 yards and scored 17 touchdowns. His acceptance speech at the Downtown Athletic Club in New York City was one of the most memorable ever. It is fondly remembered to this day for not leaving a dry eye in the house as Cappy dedicated the Heisman Trophy to his little brother, Joey, who had been stricken with leukemia. Everyone from Joe Paterno to President Gerald Ford were wiping away tears on national television as he took the spotlight off himself and lovingly gave it to his ailing brother. It remains one of the finest moments in our history and was living proof that the Grand Experiment and vision JoePa spoke of and strived for in his program was truly taking hold.

In 2013, the #22 that Cappy wore as a Nittany Lion was retired and is the only number that has been put away in the memory books, never to see the field again. To this day, the Heisman remains on campus and currently resides in the Lasch Building tucked inside a glass trophy case for those lucky enough to catch a glimpse. In April, Cappy's Heisman made a rare public appearance at this year’s Blue-White game and sat guarded on the concourse inside Beaver Stadium for fans to take selfies with. The reason for that rare appearance? Saquon Barkley, of course. And thus, the “Barkley for Heisman” campaign officially began with a red-carpet rollout.


Not a single Nittany Lion since Cappy has won the Heisman Trophy. A select few have come close. Curt Warner in ’82, Ki-Jana Carter in ’94, and Larry Johnson in ‘03 all had the most legitimate shot to have their names called, but it wasn’t meant to be. If Carter had stayed for his senior year, he may have had the best chance but 20/20 is hindsight and he became one of the first Nittany Lions to declare early for the NFL instead. This year is different. Barkley heads into 2017, his junior season, as a preseason front-runner and if you haven’t noticed on social media yet, James Franklin has every intention of giving him a shot to stand on that podium in NYC in early December. From snippets on Twitter of classic Saquon leaps over helpless DB's, to clips on Facebook of Barkley juking, jiving, and weaving his way through a sea of defenders, it’s evident the push is on with preseason practice still two months away.

Barkley has racked up over 3,000 yards from scrimmage and 30 touchdowns in his two years in Happy Valley, numbers eerily similar to those that Penn State's lone Heisman winner, John Cappelletti put up during his two years as a starter. At times, he has carried the entire squad on his shoulders as a young and sanction-depleted offense struggled to find its way. Heading into 2017, the O-Line he runs behind is no longer a weak link; the Joe Moorhead-led offense ended 2016 running on all cylinders. The offense is widely expected to continue to terrorize opposing defenses in 2017. At the center of it all stands Saquon Barkley, the kid from Whitehall, Pennsylvania, with the beaming smile who was once committed to Rutgers until Franklin came along and wooed him over. Barring any setbacks, most believe this is his final year in Blue and White; his swan song as a Nittany Lion, and as a token of appreciation the “Barkley for Heisman” campaign is already in full effect. With summer setting in and early season predictions beginning to hit the newsstands, I have one for James Franklin, one he is already keenly aware of given the number of Saquon Barkley highlights that have flooded our newsfeeds as of late. Make room for TWO in that trophy case, as Mr. Barkley blazes his way alongside Cappy and adds to a legacy that is already set in stone for all of us who have had the pleasure of watching him!