Brandon Bell, Von Walker, Malik Golden, Evan Schwan, Nyeem Wartman-White, Jordan Smith, Wendy Laurent, Brian Gaia, Gregg Garrity, Derek Dowrey, Tom Devenny, Zach Ladonis, Tyler Yazujian, Gordan Bentley, Irvin Paye, Evan Galimberti, and Paris Palmer, who arrived in 2015 after two years of junior college. They are the Super 17, the glue that held a program, expected to fall, together. Each one has an individual story to tell, but together they leave as champions in our hearts regardless of the outcome on Saturday. Collectively, their story is truly Unrivaled. It is impossible to express exactly what these seniors have meant to Penn State. Not just for football, but for the University and the community as a whole. They finally brought the happy back to Happy Valley. These seniors stayed with Penn State through its darkest hours, and for that, we will forever be grateful. On Saturday afternoon, they will make their final stand in Beaver Stadium. They will run through that tunnel one last time and show a national audience who WE ARE.
Not long after leaving the rain soaked field in Piscataway and just a few days before we sat at the Thanksgiving table to count our blessings, James FrankIin stood at the post-game podium and reached out to the past. He called on legendary linebacker LaVar Arrington and asked him to bring his brothers in Blue and White home. He asked the Lettermen to flood the sideline as one on Saturday afternoon as they battle Michigan State, with a share of the Big Ten title on the line. As of Wednesday night, LaVar and 270+ had answered his call. He asked the students to come back from break early, and he asked the fans to fill those stands one more time. The man that pleaded with us all to pull the rope in the same direction two years ago, has asked us to pull that rope with all of our might, and Penn State pride, one more time. Those 17 seniors and the rest of their team deserve nothing less from us, after weathering a brutal storm.
For the record, I have tried my best not to think about what’s at stake on Senior Day. I’ve done my best to follow the lead of our head coach and focus solely on the game at hand, for the players’ sake. But let’s be honest, what’s at stake is truly impossible to ignore. 10 regular season wins and a share of the conference crown is remarkable enough, but with a victory for the Evil Empire over Michigan, we find ourselves heading to Indianapolis with a shot at the outright Big Ten Championship. Before we kick off at 3:30 we will know exactly what we’re playing for. A few weeks back I started using the word destiny. Our Nittany Lions have proved to us that a victory over No. 2 Ohio State was not a fluke. Each week and with every win, we’ve climbed a little higher in the polls. Each week, we’ve watched another team ranked ahead of us stumble and fall. We can only control the things we can control. If we keep winning, there is no way we can be denied. The legacy of our seniors has already been etched in stone, but the legacy of this team continues to be written. On Saturday, if destiny decides to play itself out, it’s been one hell of a journey already and Sparty doesn’t stand a fighting chance: Penn State 31 Michigan State 13.