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HERSHEY, Pa. - The 2014 Penn State Coaches Caravan hit the road on Tuesday with a pair of sold out stops in York and Hershey to kick off the first full week of events.
The Penn State themed Fullington Trailways bus pulled out of the Bryce Jordan Center parking lot at 8:15 a.m. en route to the Penn State York campus. Take a look through highlights from the first two stops of a six-event week on the Coaches Caravan.
Stop No. 2 - York (Penn State York)
Head coaches James Franklin, Erica Walsh, Bob Warming and Coquese Washington headlined the first stop of the road tour on Tuesday. After a media session, the coaches took the stage for a lunch program before a sold out crowd of more than 225 enthusiastic Penn State fans on the University's York campus.
Walsh, who will enter her eighth season as head coach of the women's soccer team in the fall, opened the panel of speakers.
"It's amazing to see so many people wearing Blue and White," Walsh said.
Walsh proceeded to take the fans through a vivid story of what a recruiting trip is like for a prospective student-athlete. The leader of Penn State Women's Soccer guided the crowd through a recruiting visit weekend with every minute detail of what a trip to the campus is like. From the academic buildings the soccer program takes recruits inside to a gameday experience in Beaver Stadium, Walsh painted a remarkable picture of what campus would look like for the first time as a 17-year-old prospective student-athlete.
"That is one example of many," Walsh said at the end of her speech. "That (camaraderie on campus) is why we have won more national titles than anyone (tied with USC) since 2007."
Nittany Lion men's soccer coach Bob Warming addressed the crowd after Walsh. Warming opened his speech by introducing Bob Little, a member of Penn State men's soccer's 1954 national championship team, who was in the York crowd on Tuesday afternoon.
Warming went on to joke with the attendees that he was thrilled to see a capacity crowd so excited to see Penn State's two soccer coaches.
"We know all of you came here to see Erica and I since soccer is the most popular sport in the world," Warming said with a laugh.
Lady Lion basketball head coach Coquese Washington kicked of the first of her two stops on the Caravan with a direct message to the loyal supporters in York.
"The fans, the alums, with how much all of you support us, it trickles down," Washington said. "The student-athletes have such an unbelievable experience. And your support is what lets provide that for them...You are part of our team."
Franklin stepped to the microphone as the featured speaker of the afternoon. He first joked with the crowd that after listening to Coach Walsh's description of campus that he needs to get out of his office more and see the sights of what University Park has to offer. After all, he has been living inside his office for more than month.
The new leader of Penn State Football provided an update on the team, coaching staff and recruiting as he talked about the direction of the program. He told the crowd that he met each player on the roster for 20-25 minutes individually before the spring semester ended. The student-athletes will return to campus for the first of two summer academic sessions on May 18.
"I've been blown away by these kids since I've been here," Franklin said. "They are an amazing group of young men."
In addition to winning football games on the field, Franklin wants to achieve new heights in all phases of the program, including highs in team GPA, graduation rates and activity in the community.
"We came to Penn State to make a positive impact in the community," Franklin said.
Stop No. 3 - Hershey (Hershey Lodge)
Tuesday night's evening event inside the Hershey Lodge was all about the fans. Central Pennsylvania is filled with members of Nittany Nation, and the sold out crowd in Hershey gave the four head coaches a warm welcome to cap off a great first day on the road.
More than 750 Penn State fans filled the ballroom inside Hershey Lodge with great energy and enthusiasm. The Penn State coaches all talked about how important the fan support is for the success of the sports programs in Happy Valley.
"What you guys can embrace is that we are truly a family of coaches and take the responsibility of representing you very seriously," said Washington.
The fan support, coupled with the strong relationships between the head coaches on campus, is what makes Penn State such a unique place.
"I'm around such successful people who are at the top of their craft," Warming said.
Coach Franklin opened his evening speech by apologizing in advance that if the phone rang during the event, he was going to walk off the stage and take the call. True to his word, Franklin stood up and walked to his right, off the stage while answering a phone call during the Q&A portion of the show.
Mid-way through the call, he turned to the crowd and led a rousing "We Are!" chant before getting back on the phone and returning to his seat on stage.
The overwhelming excitement from the fans in Hershey about the direction Penn State's teams are headed made it a great evening event. The coaches are proud to represent the University, and the fans are proud to support the teams.
"I can't begin to tell you what it's been like to come back home and be your football coach," Franklin said.
The Caravan rolls south to Baltimore and Washington, D.C., on Wednesday.
Coaches Caravan Miles Traveled:
Day 1 - 165 miles
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