Do you have a favorite position in football? I’ve always had a fondness for the running backs. The Penn State Football in my memory banks involves a lot of run plays. We’ve historically been a running team. (Here I pause to call my dad, my Penn State Football Authority: Dad, I can say that right? Look up Franco Harris, Lydell Mitchell, and John Cappelletti, he says.)
I knew Franco Harris from his famed “Immaculate Reception” with the Steelers. YouTube it. It’s so worth watching one, five, ten more times. He and Lydell Mitchell formed quite the dynamic duo while at Penn State. Recently, Franco has waged a fierce campaign in defense of Joe Paterno, which I’m sure you’ve followed. I saw him once after one of those fake “town hall” meetings held after the Sandusky scandal. I came to the door of his post-meeting conference just as he did. So many things I wanted to say to him but I was reduced to a star-struck “Hi!” just as I was the first time I ran into JoePa. Franco Harris just may be my favorite PSU player of all time.
My favorite running back in recent years was Tony Hunt. He wasn’t flashy; he was a worker. At times he seemed overshadowed by bigger names like Austin Scott, Derrick Williams, Michael Robinson. He was like the underdog and the go-to guy wrapped up in one. My dad and I’d watch the games together and he’d coach from the couch, “Give it to Hunt. All riiight. Straight up the middle.”
When I told my husband I was writing about running backs, he asked if I’d heard about the 400-pound running back from Washington. I hadn’t so I looked into it and I thought you should hear about him, too. Turns out Tony Picard, a senior at White Swan High School has rushed for over 700 yards and 15 touchdowns. Just as anyone in the spotlight for doing something well, there were cowardly internet haters. Picard showed himself a running back and a role model. He silenced bullies with one post: “I’m fat but o well I’m doing what I can...I’m doing what I love and that’s playing football.” Sounds like a young man of good character to me. Maybe he wants to attend Penn State next year!
Bill Belton and Zach Zwinak are forming their own dynamic duo. It’s nice to see Belton stepping up from last season, and Zwinak has that grind-it-out style that I love so much. I look forward to seeing what Akeel Lynch has to bring to the table in the next couple years.
Coach O’Brien said recently that our running backs carry “the hopes and dreams of this football team.” Let’s run the tables.