I bring this up with a purpose. It’s not too long ago I had them pegged as a rag-tag pride of Lions. A team hanging by a thread, decimated by injury, and clawing for respect. Little-by-little they clawed their way to the top. The king of the hill is where they now firmly sit. The top of the mountain is where they stand. McSorley turned a dreadful day in Ann Arbor, Michigan and forced himself into the Heisman conversation by seasons end. They turned apologies and promises into a championship run. A run for the ages that culminates with a trip to the Granddaddy of them all: The Rose Bowl. As I began to turn my focus towards Pasadena and a battle royale versus the mighty Trojans of USC, I could not help but notice the staggering amount of swagger I saw bursting at the seams as I reflected on this season. It is everywhere I turn. I see it in us as much as I see it in our Nittany Lions. We walk with our chests out and our heads held high. I wear my Penn State coat and winter hat with unmistakable confidence and pride. I know each and everyone of you do as well. It’s impossible not too. WE ARE a direct reflection of this team and their newfound swagger. By the way, the King of Swagger you may be wondering? Marcus Allen of course, hands down. Although the silent assassin, Brandon Bell, may give him a run for his money in a calm, quiet, and cool kind of way.
Not too long ago it was Captain Darryl Clark that was the epitome of swagger. Were it not for those Hawkeyes and that thorn in his side, who knows how far he could have taken us. He played with a mindset that the opponent was simply not going to beat his squad. Before him, it was Michael Robinson that had a firm grip on the term swagger. Were it not for some despicable referee interference in dreaded Ann Arbor, Michigan, he would have surely taken his team to the National Championship. His swagger was undeniable, just ask those three Minnesota Gophers he demolished along the sideline. They know, and they blame swagger for seeing those stars revolving around their woozy brains. The more I look at this upcoming matchup with USC, the more I realize those Trojans have their hands full. Down three touchdowns? No problem. Just a little dose of that Penn State swagger and that deficit melts like the snow in spring. Beset with another all-too-often case of the injury bug, no worries. We’ve got run-ons chomping at the bit for a piece of the action. By the way, the all-time King of Swagger you may ask? None other than the King of the Leap, Lavar Arrington of course. That dude carried so much swagger it was left behind in his footprints.
I would be remiss if I didn’t mention the name James Franklin when I invoke that newfound Penn State-swagger. After all, he rolled into Happy Valley with so much of it that I immediately pegged him the FrankLion. After three years, a ton of adversity, and one championship run for the ages, his team finally has that look of swagger that champions so often do. They are a direct reflection of their head coach and the coaches he has put around them. For two years, he led them through the tunnel arm-in-arm. I always liked that about him. It showed he cared. But this year, he added a new dimension for those of you paying attention. This year, at the end of that tunnel walk, the man I have called FrankLion would unlock arms, turn around and act like he was trying to hold back his hungry, vicious pride of caged up Lions until he had no choice but to turn them loose on the opposition. It was a simple act but one that made a profound statement as the season wore on. It represented the roar of swagger that signified our return with a vengeance. The more I preview the “Granddaddy” of them all, the more I begin to realize 11-2 was no fluke. This squad of hungry Lions are far from finished, in fact, WE ARE just getting started.