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UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - For the first time in its three-year history, the Penn State Coaches Caravan kicked off on Thursday evening with an event on the University Park campus.
Before a crowd of more than 425 enthusiastic Penn State fans and alums, head coaches James Franklin, Bob Warming and Russ Rose headlined the opening night of the 17-stop Coaches Caravan that will take place throughout the month of May.
"It means a lot to our players to play in a town where everyone is extremely supportive of them," Franklin said of the hometown crowd.
The evening opened with an hour-long reception where Franklin, Rose, Warming and Nittany Lion basketball coach Patrick Chambers, along with football assistant coaches Bob Shoop, Brent Pry, Josh Gattis and Charles Huff, mingled with the attendees.
The program portion of the event took place on the ice inside Pegula Ice Arena, the sparkling home of Penn State Hockey. Warming, who led the Nittany Lion men's soccer team to its second-straight Big Ten title and NCAA Tournament berth in the fall, took the microphone first. While describing the location of his office and the elite company he is around inside Rec Hall, Warming kept things light.
"The first door you come to is Russ Rose (in my hallway)...the next door on my hallway is Cael Sanderson...the next doorway down is Erica Walsh...And then there is me," joked Warming.
Warming discussed the principles his program lives by - Recruit. Develop. Retain. Graduate.
"Its never about the coach...It's about the student-athlete," Warming said. "It's always about helping them achieve their dreams. It's always about helping them achieve their goals and become educated men to help our society."
When Warming sat down, Rose was introduced to a standing ovation from the State College crowd. Fresh off leading the Nittany Lion women's volleyball team to its fifth national championship in seven years, Rose received a rousing cheer from the hometown crowd.
"We are coming off a great season. It's incredible to be in a position to win a national championship," Rose said.
Always quick-witted, it took Rose no more than 10 seconds to have the Pegula Ice Arena crowd roaring with laughter. A 35-year veteran as a Penn State head coach, Rose has an undying passion for the University. Each time he speaks, Rose's feelings for Penn State are pure. He believes in the success of the University, its student-athletes and the head coaches leading the 31 teams on campus.
"I've been here for 35 years...we've got some of the finest coaches in the country," Rose said. "Our coaching staff across the board right now is unbelievable."
Rose's remarks transitioned into the newest member of the Penn State coaching family. Franklin has been on the job for just shy of four months. After signing a strong recruiting class in February, the newest leader of Penn State Football led the Nittany Lions through a productive spring practice period. In his time at Penn State, one thing has stood out to Franklin since day one.
"The thing that makes Penn State special...it's about the people," Franklin said. "The support we get is unreal."
Franklin is thrilled to get out on the road during May to meet Penn State fans from all corners of the state and region. Since he took the job, Franklin has talked about how proud he is to be the head coach of the Nittany Lions. His words were genuine in every sense on Thursday night in Pegula.
"For a lot of people, this is a job," Franklin said. "This is personal for me. This means the world to me. For a guy growing up in the state of Pennsylvania to come back and be the head football coach at Penn State is unbelievably special."
Working to build an elite program on and off the field, the top items on Franklin's list for a successful Penn State football program include graduating every player, winning games and impacting the region and state in a positive way. With a tireless approach to every facet of the day-to-day operation, Franklin and the football staff will work to make the fan base proud each and every day he is on the job, which he hopes is a long time.
"I love that the expectation here is for the head coach to be here for 80 years," Franklin joked.
The Caravan will hit the road on Tuesday to begin the first travel week. Sold out crowds in York (lunch) and Hershey (dinner reception) will greet Franklin, Warming, Coquese Washington and Erica Walsh on Tuesday.
Follow GoPSUsports.com's Tony Mancuso on Twitter @GoPSUTony
2014 Coaches Caravan - Pegula Ice Arena Kick-Off Event
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