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Coaches Caravan Day 2: Philadelphia

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PHILADELPHIA - The Penn State Coaches Caravan rolled into the City of Brotherly Love for the second of three stops along this year's scheduled route. A passionate crowd of Penn Staters packed Philadelphia's Crystal Tea Room located directly in the center of the city for an evening program. 

The Philadelphia stop along the Coaches Caravan is more than just another city for a majority of this year's coaching lineup, with three from the group calling the surrounding area home sweet home.

For Delaware County Hall of Fame head coach Char Morett-Curtiss, the Aldan native felt memories come flooding back as soon as she stepped inside the historic building to greet the Penn State contingent.

"Coming here tonight it's really emotional," Morett-Curtiss said addressing the crowd. "I remember coming into this building when it was just the Wanamaker Building, with the big eagle out front. My dad used take me down here every Christmas to see the Wanamaker lights show. A little bit of heart there. Obviously coming to Philadelphia is really special." 

Penn State head coach Patrick Chambers, a Newtown Square native, led a resounding Philadelphia Eagles chant to kick off his portion of the program.

In celebration of the Eagles' historic first Super Bowl victory, both Chambers and Morett-Curtiss surprised fans, donning a pair of (under) dog masks for a quick skit on stage. 

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Rounding out the group, Penn State head coach James Franklin popped out of his media obligations to take his position at the photo booth only to come face to face with his second grade teacher, Mr. B.

"He's been a big part of my family so I really appreciate you being here Mr. B," Franklin said after calling on his childhood teacher to stand and wave.

Adding to the hometown feel, Franklin announced a new recruit in 7-year-old Logan Simpkins, welcoming the young Nittany Lion fan to the stage for a quick introduction.

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All nostalgia aside, both Franklin and Chambers looked toward the future of their respective programs in a pair of individual sessions.

Since arriving on campus, plenty has changed when it comes to the circumstances Franklin and his staff have recruited alongside. While the message hasn't changed, the Nittany Lions are no longer selling a dream that has yet to come to life.

"I think people see it," Franklin said. "They feel it and they see it, so that helps. I would say we probably get less tough questions though."

While the process of showing rather than asking for belief is most definitely easier, when it comes to the team, it's something Franklin is paying close attention to.

On trips in between cities, Franklin noted he's already started sending notes to begin a conversation with his staff at the annual staff retreat after reading something that sparked the thought process.

"Jason Cabinda was quoted and Jason Cabinda and the Mike Gesicki's and those guys, they have been through a lot of adversity," Franklin said. "As a program, they have been through a lot of adversity, individually. They had to overcome stuff, they had to work through things."

The byproduct of back-to-back double figure win seasons and a pair of New Year's Six bowl appearances is motivating in many ways, but as Penn State distances itself from some of its most tumultuous time, the aspect of overcoming adversity has started to fade.

"It's making sure that our team is mature enough to handle it and doesn't feel like winning is just a birthright at Penn State because it's not," Franklin said. "Getting our guys to understand the type of sacrifices, the type of investment they are going to make."

The solution for Franklin is spending time in the offseason identifying exactly what it is that will ultimately differentiate Penn State from a plethora of programs who are all already working at an extremely high level.

"Are we working harder, are we working smarter, are we working longer, what are we doing to differentiate ourselves," Franklin asked. "I think that's an important lesson for our guys because that's the same thing they are going to do for the rest of their lives when they are interviewing for jobs and things like that."

Looking ahead to another season is nothing short of thrilling for Chambers, who noted that amid a clear buzz surrounding the program, there's still room for growth and development.

"I'm really pleased with the class that we have coming in and we also have a transfer coming in, which is fabulous for us," Chambers said. "Our development, our consistency and sustainability for what we're trying to do over the long haul, the extension was critical."

At a quick glance, Chambers noted he feels his freshman class is prepared to contribute.

"I think the they are ready, they are prepared," Chambers said. " They can pass, they can dribble, they can shoot. They are great in the classroom. From high school to the Big Ten is a huge jump o we're going to see early on here in summer session one and summer session two for some of the guys and I think they'll be ready to go. After that summer session, we'll gauge where they are and the sooner they grow up and mature will dictate how well we do this year." 

Part of Penn State's striking success this season though meant critical extra time together as a team for its younger Nittany Lions to develop, giving Chambers even more options when it comes to giving freshmen the opportunity to learn the ropes before being thrust into the spotlight.

"Once we kind of get under the hood and see what we've got and I start to put the players and lineups together and see where we are - right now, it's exciting," Chambers said. "I think there's a buzz about the program. I think there are seven or eight veteran guys, coupled with some guys who are coming in as well as some youth." 

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