PARK, Pa. - Penn State treated fans to a surprise announcement Thursday afternoon
revealing its generations of greatness game against Indiana, set for September
30 in Beaver Stadium, taking both subtle and carefully executed approach to
breaking the news.
With throwback uniforms as the centerpiece of the exciting announcement, it's something head coach James Franklin had already been talking about since he arrived at Penn State. Those early talks began with Brad "Spider" Caldwell, Penn State's former longtime football equipment manager who returned to Penn State after a brief retirement. Those talks about tradition and how to honor a proud history in a unique way.
As the talks materialized, Penn State partnered with assistant athletic director of equipment services Jay Takach and assistant marketing athletic director Brad Keen, among just a few of close group who worked together and all kept quiet as plans developed across a lengthy period of time.
Come Thursday morning, Franklin and his staff met with the team at 7:45 a.m. where generations of greatness uniform model wide receiver Josh McPhearson (who also had to keep it under his hat for a significant period of time) burst through the squad rooms doors to send the team in a frenzy at the first sight of a precisely planned uniform that proudly weaves Penn State's proud past through the fabric of its bright future - it's generations of greatness.
"That's what we're built on here at Penn State: the past, the present and where we're going in the future." pic.twitter.com/xjp9WjsMcA-- Penn State Football (@PennStateFball) June 15, 2017
"I think it's something that does two things," Franklin said. "It really shows and reinforces all the tremendous history and tradition that we have here, and our uniform - as iconic as it is and how it has not changed much over time, there have been some subtle things. And we can honor those things and kind of tell this unbelievable story that we have here at Penn State of our history, and what better way to do it with this uniform."
Spanning through the generations wasn't actually the original concept for construction, but as any great design is born, there are changes and developments among usual additions and subtractions.
Working in tandem with Nike, Penn State originally began drawing inspiration from 1959, the year Penn State earned its third bowl bid in program history on the way to its first postseason victory in the inaugural Liberty Bowl in Philadelphia, shutting out Alabama 7-0.
As Takach also noted though, the concept quickly expanded well beyond a single season.
"It started as just a throwback with what we wanted to do and then as we started to look at the different timeframes and the history of Penn State Football we landed on a couple of things," Takach said. "Nike kind of found the jersey numbers when they were doing some research but we always knew that there was a stripe on the pants, the number on the helmet, the sleeve trim, those concepts were always there in the history so once we started doing the research we decided as it's called, generations of greatness, so versus throwing back to any one particular era, we tried to incorporate a number of different timelines in there."
For an aesthetic starting place, Penn State didn't have to do a tremendous amount of research to find a visual, all thanks to Caldwell of course.
"When Spider and I first talked about this three years ago, all these things were downstairs," Franklin said. "So when I asked Spider, he brought up the helmet with the gray face mask. He already had it. The numbers on the helmet, he already had it. The striped pants were downstairs. Brand new. Bought."
At first a little unsure of the gray facemask, which the Nittany Lions sported from 1959-86, Franklin saw it and found it pretty sharp, also enjoying the numbered helmets, which were originally in place from 1959-61 and later on from 1967-74.
As Franklin also noted though, the white cleats were the final piece to tie the concept together, one particular element that Franklin noted was probably the most exciting to the team bright and early this morning.
Once greenlit, Takach got to work, secretly sizing and ordering, with new jersey and pant materials to take into consideration, both design pieces also under his desk for about four of five months.
Now proudly displayed for all to see, the planning for September 30, 2017 is still ongoing.
For Keen, the fun has merely just begun, with ideas of vintage inspired video boards, student section props, advertisements and field elements all beginning to swirl.
"We've got the ultimate throwback uniform," Keen said. "Everyone does a throwback uniform, but we're going to have the ultimate throwback game. So now I'm going to start to figure out how we can incorporate some vintage throwback elements into our gameday atmosphere and into our gameday experience."