By Madeleine Balestrier, GoPSUsports.com Student Staff Writer
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - As the Penn State Nittany Lions take the pitch Sunday night against the Maryland Terrapins, the Blue and White will step on the field unified in remembering their 12th man, Mack Brady.
Mack, the young son of Elizabeth Brady and Christian Brady, the former Dean of the Schreyer Honors College, passed away in 2012, but his aspirations to be a goalkeeper live on through the Penn State men's soccer team.
"It has been wonderful for me to see how Mack's life, his memory, his legacy has lived on with people like Evan Finney," said Christian. "He [Finney] has talked about how much it means to him that he is a Mack Brady goalkeeper...It's a wonderful way to keep our son's memory alive in a positive and encouraging way to basically still see Mack play as it were through Evan."
Mack's lasting impact on the Penn State soccer community has connected the core of their 'Goalkeeper U,' strengthened relationships, and transcended their game beyond just wins and losses. An eight-year-old boy and his family brought an entirely new meaning to representing the Blue and White every fall.
The goalkeeper position has connected Mack to his father, head coach Bob Warming, and the numerous players who have dawned the Blue and White from the backline over the years.
"Mack loved carrying his team in that way he loved being the last line of defense from the beginning of the counterattack," said Christian. "So just to share that and say, 'look an eight year old just embraced it.' "
"We get to go out and play for him every single day and let him shine through us," said past Nittany Lion and LA Galaxy goalkeeper Andrew Wolverton. "He's a great example of what strength is and we can all model after that."
This core of individuals feeds off of Mack's lasting energy so much so that they have yet to lose an annual Mack Brady Match, and they even return years later to feel him between the goalposts of Jeffrey Field. Wolverton will be back at home amongst the Blue and White this Sunday as he reflects on the meaning of the Mack Brady Match.
"It's always good to come back and support...unfortunately such a terrible event happened to someone in our community that's really dear to us now," said Wolverton. "(Former) Dean Brady is a great example to all of us. He is a great guy that we all really look up to, so it's great for us to be able to support him and his family."
Two years ago, another Penn State starting goalkeeper, Matt Bersano, fed off of Mack's presence during a penalty kick situation against the Indiana Hoosiers during that year's Mack Brady Match.
"One of my favorite stories will always be two years ago when we played Indiana," said Christian. "They gave us a penalty kick against us and Matt Bersano dove and got his right hand on it and Coach Warming, you don't talk to the man before, during or for an hour after the game...so Bersano made the stop and he [Warming] came over and just squeezed me so tight and said, 'that was Mack.'"
Mack's love for the gloves did not only connect Penn State's
continually strong group of men holding down the backline of defense, but also
strengthened the relationship of an established athlete and coach, Bob Warming,
and an academic scholar, Christian Brady.
"He has become an incredible friend," said Christian. "I have watched him be an amazing mentor to not only these guys but so many of his former goalkeeping players...It's been an honor and a privilege. I have been very thankful. Bob is a dear friend."
Coach Warming also played an instrumental part in helping Mack's legacy live on through the distinguished student-athletes who find themselves protecting the net of the Blue and White. Every season on the pitch each goalkeeper who suits up can be seen wearing a diamond patch with a green number seven, four leaf clovers, and Mack's name prominently displayed above all else.
"Mack picked his number seven when he was four years old and stuck with it," said Christian. "The clover came from that [State College Celtics]. It was actually one of the other fathers on the team just a few weeks after Mack died who brought me this patch that he had made for the Celtic boys to wear so I gave one to Bob and he said, 'Can I get some of these made?'"
"One of the sheer things that we have with the Brady family is that we know that our team and our goalkeepers are living the dreams of other people," said Warming, on the team living out Mack's childhood dream.
Although the circumstances of the annual Mack Brady Match are undeserving and tragic, the rallying of a community as large as Penn State speaks to the aspirations, character, and energy of an eight-year-old boy. Soccer consumed Mack Brady's life, but Mack Brady gave Penn State men's soccer and the surrounding community a connection that will transcend generations and uphold a legacy that goes well beyond the confines of the pitch.
If you would like to support the Mack Brady Memorial Men's Soccer Fund, memorial gifts may be made online here or by sending a check, payable to Penn State with "In memory of Mack Brady" in the memo line, to: Penn State University, One Old Main, University Park, PA 16802. You can also visit http://www.mackbrady.com for more information about the fund.
For more information on Nittany Lion men's soccer, log onto www.GoPSUsports.com and follow the team on the various social media platforms.