I’m not much of a complainer when it comes to Penn State Football. I’m pretty much satisfied when they play their best and happy when they come up with the win. It’s tough to be super pleased with this last season win against Rutgers, though there are plenty of excuses for its lack of luster. The game after Thanksgiving doesn’t bring the full crowd of fans, and I think we can all probably admit we have trouble getting excited to play against Rutgers. With our back up quarterback, numerous players out with injuries, and holiday disruptions to consider, I think they did just fine.
There were plenty of bright spots to notice. Journey Brown had a great game running for 103 yards and three touchdowns. Blake Gillikin produced an impressive 72-yard punt that was downed at the three-yard line. All of Jordan Stout’s kicks offs were touchbacks. KJ Hamler looked as dangerous as ever. Micah Parsons showed his speed all over the field with a sack and several tackles for loss.
Plus, Senior Day is always a highlight. These sixteen seniors played their final game in beloved Beaver Stadium: Nick Bowers, Cam Brown, Weston Carr, Dan Chisena, Nick Eury, Blake Gillikin, Steven Gonzalez, Jan Johnson, Hunter Kelly, Colton Maxwell, John Reid, Michael Shuster, Garrett Taylor, Justin Tobin, Robert Windsor, and Jake Zembiec. As a class, they have been part of 41 career wins, the most since the senior class of 1997. They won a Big Ten championship, appeared in the Rose Bowl, won the Fiesta Bowl, and were with us when we were ranked as high as second in the nation.
I read through some interviews with these seniors and they all expressed the same common themes. Over and over they talked about sacrifice and hard work. They tried to describe the uniqueness of Penn State’s program and how special it is to them. They discussed how they’d like to be remembered as great teammates and players who always tried to give their all, to play their best when their names were called, and to support their peers and coaches. After the game, they spoke about the relationships they had formed, about being part of the team, and about the love they have for each other.
In one of his post-game interviews, James Franklin said, “It’s not just on the football field. At Penn State this is so much more than wins and losses. It’s about how our guys conduct themselves, how they are in interviews, how they are in the community. It’s all of it.”
I’m proud to be part of this Penn State family, that celebrates not only a player’s accomplishments on the field but also his character. I am grateful to these sixteen seniors for consistently representing the Penn State ideals. I wish them success on whatever path they choose, knowing that their experience here has prepared them for so much more than football. And, of course, I look forward to watching them play one last bowl game.