It’s hard to fathom that we are already approaching the five-year anniversary of that opening day loss in 2012, and I am certainly not here to force us to re-live bad memories. The fact is though, without taking a glimpse into the past, we cannot fully appreciate the upcoming future, so please bear with me. One of the few highlights of that 24-14 loss came from someone who probably had no business on the field under normal circumstances, but out of grave necessity, played an important role. With the clock winding down late in the second quarter, true freshman via the mean streets of Scranton, Nyeem Wartman, burst through the middle of the line and blocked a punt at the 18-yard line. The crowd of 97,000 erupted and three plays later Matt McGloin hit Matt Lehman for a TD and 14-3 lead. A week later during the loss to Virginia, Wartman (now known fondly to us all as Nyeem Wartman-White, an honor to his mother last summer) suffered an injury that effectively ended his season. He was able to preserve his redshirt and although his time was short, his name and accomplishment on the field was duly noted. For a fan base looking for anything positive at the time, Nyeem Wartman offered a small sliver of light knowing that we could look forward to his services over the upcoming four years.
Now, I could easily continue this entire article about Wartman-White as he recovers from a knee injury suffered on opening day of 2015, but with all due respect to one of our senior leaders, he was merely used to set the table today. It’s June now and in a few weeks the highly touted Class of 2016 will officially arrive on campus as all new recruiting classes do. Back in 2012, Wartman-White was one of 23 who committed to Penn State, an amazing number considering all of the unknowns surrounding the football program at the time. As we head into the summer, only six remain out of that class of 2012, including Wartman-White. A handful never made it on campus and a few others were eventually dismissed for one reason or another. Two, (G. Lewis, A. Lynch) decided to transfer after last season. Another two (J.James, A.Johnson) entered the NFL after their junior years, and two others (J.Lucas, T.Williams) exhausted their eligibility and are in NFL camps as we speak. All of which leaves us with 5th year seniors Evan Schwann, Malik Golden, Brian Gaia, Derek Dowrey, Wendy Laurent and Nyeem Wartman-White of course, as the final remaining half-dozen from the Class of 2012. AKA: The Lone Survivors, a group that committed to the school and not necessarily a coach like so many had before. A half-dozen men left that remained even after being told they could leave with no strings attached.
The time will come, God willing, when we no longer feel the need to honor entire classes. The time will come eventually when we can simply appreciate their accomplishments on the field and in the classroom, rather than feel the need to thank them just for choosing Penn State. As it stands, next year’s class will be the first that committed to Penn State after the sanctions. The year after will be the class that stayed together after Bill O’Brien left, and the year after that will be the first full class that signed with James Franklin and hopefully brought us back to the promised land. In short, the time will come, eventually, when things return to normal in Happy Valley. As close as we may be to reaching that point, we still have a long way to go. So as we all dive headfirst into the Summer of 2016, let me be the first to show some love and appreciation to Nyeem Wartman-White and The Lone Survivors as they embark upon their final chapter in Blue and White!