Honoring A Historical Senior Class

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UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - Thirty-one names will be announced before Saturday's game against Leaders Division rival Wisconsin.

They are 31 names that will forever be etched in Penn State football lore.

8340983.jpegFootball is a team game, but no group in the 126-year history of the football program at Penn State deserves more individual recognition than these 31 players: Mark Arcidiacono, Joe Baker, P.J. Byers, Cody Castor, Derek Day, Andre Dupree, Emery Etter, Jacob Fagnano, Mike Farrell, Frank Figueroa, Patrick Flanagan, Michael Fuhrman, Jordan Hill, Gerald Hodges, Brian Irvin, Christian Kuntz, Evan Lewis, Pete Massaro, Michael Mauti, Matt McGloin, Shane McGregor, Stephon Morris, J.R. Refice, Matt Stankiewitch, Sean Stanley, James Terry, Jamie Van Fleet, Garrett Venuto, Mike Wallace, Mike Yancich and Michael Zordich.

No group of seniors has faced more adversity.

No group was knocked to the mat more than this one.

No group faced taller odds.

But no group stood up with more Penn State pride when the deck was stacked the other way.

It's hard to fathom walking in the shoes of the 31 senior members of the 2012 Penn State football team. The group faced more turbulence in the past 12 months than some people might encounter in a lifetime. But no matter how difficult the situation was, the Nittany Lion seniors found ways to be leaders for the rest of the locker room, the community, the student body, the athletic department and the University.

On some occasions the leadership came through words. On other occasions it was through hard work. And sometimes it was through actions, or a combination of all three.

On July 25, they all had the option to walk out the door and leave for other opportunities. Most of the seniors had offers to do so, and they could have done it with no consequence.

But they didn't.

They pledged their commitment to new Coach Bill O'Brien and they stuck with Penn State despite the unprecedented challenges ahead of the 2012 season following the NCAA's announcement.

Why?

"We have a never-say-die attitude," quarterback Matt McGloin said.

"We're resilient. We are fighters," cornerback Stephon Morris said.

"It's not about how many games you win or lose, it's about us sticking together," linebacker Gerald Hodges said.

"We know it's not going to be easy, but we know what we are made of," running back Michael Zordich declared.

"We are playing for our team, we are playing for our coaches, and we are playing for Penn State," defensive tackle Jordan Hill said.

"We take this as an opportunity to create our own legacy," linebacker Michael Mauti said.

From the day Coach O'Brien met the team in January, he knew the makeup of what he always called a special senior class. That's high praise for a head coach who had never even seen the group practice, let alone play a game.

O'Brien earned the trust of the seniors from the moment they met him inside the squad room at the Lasch Football Building on Jan. 8. And they earned the trust of O'Brien. Together, O'Brien and the seniors became the glue on a team that forged an unbreakable bond in 2012.

"As I have said from day one, this team is led by a fantastic senior class," O'Brien said. "You've heard a lot about Michael Mauti and Jordan Hill and Matt McGloin, but there's about 27 (more) of those guys. Guys that you've probably never heard of, who are fantastic kids who are going to graduate with Penn State degrees and go on to be huge successes in life. And, really, at the end of the day that's what it's all about."

The Nittany Lions started the season 0-2 before rattling off five-straight victories en route to a highly successful winning season in O'Brien's first year at the helm of the program. While the season featured its fair share of highs, including three consecutive Big Ten road victories, the results on the field pale in comparison to what the senior class has done for the present and future of the Penn State football program.

In the words of Coach O'Brien, the true measure of a man is how he handles adversity.

Never once did any member of the senior class complain about the situation the team was in. The group brought effort, intensity, passion and unmatched work ethic to the practice field every single day from Aug. 6 through Nov. 23. It wasn't always perfect, but the group loved to practice.

"These kids absolutely love to practice," O'Brien said. "They come to work every day ready to give maximum effort, and they want to work hard."

O'Brien deserves immense recognition for how he and the coaching staff faced the challenges head on and guided the team through the 2012 season. But the seniors kept the locker room closer than likely any Penn State locker room in the program's history.

"When you look at what these guys have been through, they've played for a lot more than a bowl game," O'Brien said.

Regardless of what life challenges these 31 seniors will face, they will be prepared for it. In the most difficult times, each individual handled himself with dignity, class and honor.

"In the future, when life throws adversity after you, you know that you can handle it because of the things you went through when you played college football here," McGloin said.

It was written that before the team even played a snap in 2012, the Nittany Lions were going to be winners. Now that the season is 11 games and 12 weeks old, that statement could not be more true. The members of this team stuck together, worked hard and forged a bond as one collective group through the most difficult time the program has ever seen.

"Even though this is not an undefeated team, this is a very special team of kids," O'Brien said.

One-by-one, all 31 student-athletes will run out of the South Tunnel to receive a Beaver Stadium curtain call for the hard work and dedication they have given to the program for four and in some cases five years.

Eight of the 2012 seniors earned their degrees before the season began, including defensive end Pete Massaro, a first-team CoSIDA Academic All-American. Nine more will graduate in December, while others are on schedule to receive their degrees in the spring.

"We have a resilient bunch of players and like I've said every single week, it's led by a fantastic senior class, a bunch of guys that have a passion for playing football for Penn State, for going to school here at Penn State," O'Brien said.

Stand up, cheer and pay your respects to a truly historic Penn State football senior class as it puts on the Penn State Blue and White uniform one final time in Beaver Stadium.

"There have been some great teams in this program's history -- the 1982 and 1986 National Championship teams, the 1994 undefeated team -- on the field," O'Brien said. "But no team has gone through more than this team. That's why this senior class will go down as one of the greatest in Penn State history."


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3 Comments

This article pretty much says it all. However, in addition to the senior class which I highly respect on every level, there have been the fans who never waned in support of their special team. I, for one (who has only missed 4 home games in 47 years), will remember this group of seniors as a very special class who kept me coming to Beaver Stadium when many were ready to give up and some who, in fact, did.

When I went to gopsusports.com this evening, the picture of the 2012 Penn State football senior class greeted me. I'm not ashamed to say that it brought me to tears. The web page presented me with an option to "Permanently Bypass this Page" and it occurred to me that I'd very much like there to be an option that allowed me to "Never Bypass this Page". I want to always remember these young men, their teammates, and their coaches. In the face of unprecedented adversity, they brought honor to the University and to her alumni. I'm at a loss as to how honor them in return. As a start, this is the first year that I have contributed to the Nittany Lion Club and, in so doing, I also committed to the OneTeam 5 Year plan. Hardly enough, but a start. Gentlemen, you are Penn State!

On this day that we are thankful for so many things, I must point out that one that I am extremely thankful for is the Nittany Lion Football Team Senior Class. This is a resilient group of men that has shown tremendous steel in the face of so much adversity! They have represented the entire university and community at a level that is unprecedented. Thank you to this group on this special holiday! Best wishes to them as they venture forward in their lives!

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