UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - It's been a feel-good weekend for Penn State Football, culminating in the 15th annual Penn State Lift for Life at Holuba Hall. The defining event for the Penn State Uplifting Athletes Chapter, the anticipated event brings out members of the community for a fun-filled afternoon all benefitting fundraising for rare diseases.
While the competition features an entire team effort, the planning and logistics to put on the yearly event is also an essential team responsibility for 2017 Uplifting Athletes officers Andrew Nelson (vice president), Ryan Bates (secretary) and Tom Devenney (treasurer), with Jason Cabinda and Trace McSorley serving as co-presidents.
"It's an honor to be in a leadership position for Lift for Life," Nelson said. "Just knowing the effect that it has on the community and the rare disease community, which is a community that suffers a lot because there isn't a lot that they can do for them."
For McSorley, it's been an experience for sure, especially dealing with logistics involved with moving the event from its usual location at the Penn State Lacrosse Stadium inside at Holbua Hall.
"It's definitely something that I didn't know all of this stuff went into it," McSorley said. "I worked a little bit with it last year and it was an experience then but taking this step this year where there's a lot more planning and having to move it from the lacrosse field where it usually is into Holuba and really having to handle all of those things."
One of 22 chapters in Division I football across the nation, the challenge for each Nittany Lion elected into a leadership position is continuing on the tradition for those yet to come.
"A lot has gone into this," Cabinda said. "Luckily we have Scott Shirley (Uplifting Athletes Founder) who does such a good job of it all and really just helps guide me and Trace and the rest of the guys on the board like Andrew Nelson, to kind of get these things rolling and then pass it on to the younger guys so that next year it can be an even better event."
Cabinda and Nelson also attended the Uplifting Athletes Leadership Council in Philadelphia, bringing together chapters from around the country for a chance to meet and learn from each other.
"It was a really cool experience, being able to see what Uplifting Athletes is doing at other Universities, hearing their ideas, how they are implementing fundraising," Cabinda said. "There were three or four ideas from that weekend that me and Andrew Nelson kind of picked up and thought we want to implement those here."
We'll have to wait and see what Cabinda, Nelson and the rest of the Uplifting Athletes officers have planned for the future, but if there's one thing that's for sure, this year was certainly a success.
Take a look at three other intriguing topics from the Uplifting Athletes media session for a little preseason primer.
Accountability on the Mind
For Nelson, one of the themes of the year has been accountability, with vocal members of the team all stepping up to hold each other accountable on a day-to-day basis. For Cabinda, a clear leader on the defensive side of the ball, that type of accountability is the byproduct of a more seasoned veteran team, something that comes when guys start to feel more comfortable with the process.
"We have a lot of guys who have been here for years and they know how things are supposed to get done," Cabinda said. "It's easier to teach the young guys because you have so many guys who are leading by example, so many guys constantly putting in extra work, putting in the time that's it's going to take to be great. When you have that kind of culture already in place and established, it's easy for that to trickle down and translate to the freshmen."
Barkley Building on
One of those vocal leaders is Barkley, the returning Big Ten Offensive MVP who has certainly earned it when it's come to leadership, but it's not something that he took right to as soon as he arrived on campus.
"I wouldn't consider myself a leader when I was a freshman, I wasn't that vocal," Barkley said. "I think it comes as you grow and you get experience and get more comfortable with the guys on the team. It's harder to lead as a freshman. Obviously, everybody has leadership traits but it's something you have to work on. I always thought that you lead by what you do, coming to work, don't be late, do the right things. That's a way to lead too but you need someone to be vocal and we don't only have one vocal guy, we have about 25 guys and that's going to help us this year."
As Nelson put it, being one of the best players on the team doesn't necessarily make you a leader.
"Saquon has both of those intangibles, off the field as well," Nelson said. "He is a high character guy, a motivator, he cares a lot about his teammates. Naturally as time goes on he has stepped more and more into that leadership role and he's not afraid to be a voice on the team."
Perhaps one of the final team activities before training camp, Penn State will kick off the 2017 season in Chicago, taking part in the Big Ten Media Days, with the Nittany Lions set for July 24. Nittany Lions Mike Gesicki, Jason Cabinda and Marcus Allen will join head coach James Franklin at the event.
"It's going to be a lot of fun," Gesicki said. "All of us being out there, between me, Marcus (Allen) and Jason (Cabinda). We all came in together, we're all in the same recruiting class, we're all really good friends. It's going to be a good time. It gives us a chance to go out there, answer some questions, talk about our team, our expectations and everybody can learn a little bit more about us. It's a huge honor that Coach Franklin selects us three to go out there, we're happy to do it."
For more details on format and performance snippets, catch up with assistant athletic director for performance enhancement Dwight Galt below.