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Day I Recap - Harrisburg & Lancaster
BALTIMORE - The Coaches Caravan traveled southeast on Wednesday on day two of the first leg, making a pair of stops in Washington, D.C., and Baltimore.
The Penn State wrapped Fullington Trailways bus rolled into the nation's capital on Wednesday morning for a lunch stop to kick off the day. Take a look through highlights from the second two stops of a six-event week on the Coaches Caravan.
Stop No. 3 - Washington, D.C. (JW Marriott)
Raised in Annapolis, Maryland, Director of Athletics Sandy Barbour kicked off the panel of speakers with a story about how she was introduced to the prideful fan base of the Nittany Lions. The D.C. area is home to approximately 26,000 Penn State alums. Barbour cited that many of the folks sitting in the room played a big role in establishing her feelings about the University.
"You all taught me about Penn State," said Barbour. "Growing up in the area, I learned a lot of my initial feelings and in a lot of ways had my introduction to Penn State from people like you."
Each year on the Caravan, the trips to the DMV are always filled with enthusiastic fans of the Blue and White. And it's a critical area for recruiting.
"This is going to be a very, very important area for us moving forward in recruiting," head coach James Franklin said. "It's always been a big part of Penn State Football, and it will continue to be very important."
Additionally, with the expanded footprint of the Big Ten Conference, the Penn State fans in the DC area will have more opportunities to see the Lions play closer to home.
In addition to games at Maryland across all of the Big Ten's sanctioned sports, the 2017 Big Ten Basketball Tournament will be contested in Washington, D.C., from March 8-12 in the Verizon Center.
Among the attendees in D.C. on Wednesday was captain in the U.S. Navy. Looking at the diehard Penn State fan, hockey head coach Guy Gadowsky singled the man out during his speech about the Nittany Lion supporters. Gadowsky said the Navy captain came up to him prior to the lunch to inform him of a new tradition started during the Michigan hockey series. The captain brought tailgating to the parking lot during the coldest weekend of the year, and Gadowsky loved it.
"How are you not fired up to play in Pegula Ice Arena when you have someone like a Navy captain tailgating outside in the snow before our game?" Gadowsky said.
What gives the Caravan a unique touch are stories and meetings like the one Gadowsky had with the Naval captain. Penn State's fan base is one big family. Each coach on the Caravan uses the experience to learn about the fans and engage with them. It helps the fans understand how important the support is for each program on campus.
"Our philosophy is built on relationships and how we interact with people," head coach James Franklin said.
VIDEO: Washington, D.C. Press Conference
Stop No. 4 - Baltimore (Hilton Baltimore BWI Airport)
After a quick look at the White House before leaving Washington, the Caravan traveled north to Baltimore for stop No. 4 during the week at the Hilton near BWI Airport. The greater Baltimore area is home to nearly 10,500 Penn State alums, and like Washington, the Caravan crowd is always energetic at stops in the DMV. Wednesday evening's event was no different.
Barbour, and head coaches James Franklin, Guy Gadowsky and Denise St. Pierre received a rousing ovation from the moment they stepped on the stage inside Thurgood Marshall Ballroom.
It's going to be a big year ahead for Penn State and the Baltimore area. The Nittany Lions are slated to meet Maryland on October 24 in M&T Bank Stadium. The game will mark Penn State's first game in Baltimore since Nov. 9, 1991 when the Lions topped Maryland, 47-7, in Memorial Stadium.
The DMV is home to 19 players on the 2015 football roster. That list includes seven returning players who hail from the state of Maryland. For decades, the Baltimore-Washington, D.C., area has been pivotal recruiting ground for the football program. That is not going to change in the eyes of Coach Franklin.
Assistant coaches Charles Huff and Sean Spencer were in attendance on Wednesday evening after spending the day recruiting in the area. Additionally, junior offensive lineman Brian Gaia (Pasadena, Maryland) was in attendance. Gaia stood and recited the program's four core values when called upon during Franklin's speech.
Maryland is an area Franklin and Gadowsky are quite familiar with. They both have family members in the state. And Franklin spent several years of his professional career in the local area.
"Being able to come around to different areas around the region is great, and we love to come out and say thank you," Franklin said. "The fans have been so supportive since we got here last year, and places like this are big reason we have felt so welcome."
An Annapolis native, Barbour spoke on Wednesday evening about having the opportunity to come home when she took the job as Director of Athletics for Penn State in August. Her passion for the Blue and White is evident every time she speaks. Barbour loves every ounce of her job and takes great pride in leading a department that sets the standard for academic and athletic excellence.
"All of the reasons why I came to Penn State have all come true and more," Barbour said.
The first week of the Caravan will conclude on Thursday with stops in Altoona (lunch) and north of Pittsburgh (evening reception).
VIDEO: Baltimore Press Conference
Coaches Caravan Miles Traveled:
Day I - 129 miles
Day II - 142 miles
Caravan Total - 271 miles
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