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Penn State Hosts Lift for Life

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UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - When Nittany Lion letterman Scott Shirley received the call that his father was diagnosed with a rare form of cancer during his time at Penn State, he and his family used every bit of the six months his father was given to live to travel the country visiting different doctors for options.

Ultimately met with few options due to lack of funding for rare disease research and medications, Shirley turned toward his teammates for support.

"This is the 16th year which is pretty wild," Shirley said on a bright Saturday afternoon at Holuba Hall. "I was just talking earlier, this was born out of Penn State, out of the culture at Penn State really, whenever I was facing some adversity with my dad's diagnosis with a rare disease and my teammates rallied around me and said we're Penn State football, let's do something."

Shirley is the executive director and founder of Uplifting Athletes, which over the course of its existence has grown into 22 chapters, all of which have combined for a credited $400 million economic impact. For Shirley though, without Penn State, there would be no Uplifting Athletes.

"To see where it has grown now it's awesome, and kind of a testament to the guys in this program, how it has been passed through the generations of guys who have come through and how serious we all take it," former Penn State Uplifting Athletes president Trace McSorley said.

Although the senior quarterback is no longer president, new co-presidents Ryan Bates and Steven Gonzalez are well aware of just how embedded the cause is within the fabric of the Penn State football program.

"Coming in as a freshman, I didn't really know what Lift for Life was or what it meant," Bates said. "Being a part of Penn State football, Lift for Life is what we do. It's part of our culture and it's part of who we are. Coming in this year, me and Steve [Gonzalez] taking on the role of being co-presidents, it means a lot."

Fans flocked to Penn State's Holuba Hall Saturday afternoon for the annual event, which featured all of the usual competitions, culminating in a few rounds of tug-of-war, before an autograph session for all in attendance.

Prior to getting started, a few Nittany Lions took time for a media session, offering an update on summer progress as Penn State heads toward training camp.

Summer Schedule
It's been a busy month of training for the Nittany Lions as McSorley noted the schedule features workouts with two additional player-led structured sessions per week. That's not counting any voluntary individual work too.

Balancing everything is key, while McSorley and the rest of the leaders from each position work together to identify what two player-led sessions will include. 

"A lot of it is me and the other guys on offense, talking with Miles [Sanders], Juwan [Johnson], asking what do you guys want to work on today, how do you want to approach it," McSorley said. "Then talking with guys on defense like Amani [Oruwariye], Nick [Scott], Koa [Farmer], asking them what they want to work on, do they want to get more 7-on-7 or 1-on-1, or just more individual drills and things like that."

The goal of course is hitting the ground running when it comes to training camp, as well as bringing the incoming freshmen up to speed as quickly as possible. For someone like Bates, it's a critical time for the newcomers to learn from the veterans ahead of their first training camp experience.

"The offensive line will work on kick sets, run blocking, we work on everything really," Bates said. "I think that's big for some of the freshmen. Some of the freshmen, they might have played tackle in high school and they are coming in playing guard, or playing guard and now tackle. It gives them the opportunity to pick up the little things. We teach them the proper kick set, proper footwork and everything and I think some of them take it for granted, but it's a big contribution to the progress going into camp."

Speaking of Freshmen ...
Penn State director of performance enhancement Dwight Galt noted that almost all of the incoming freshmen have impressed him with the kind of shape they are in upon arrival.

"This is a good class," Galt said. "These kids are serious. They've been well prepared, not only physically in the weight room and running but also for what it's going to take to be successful here. It's really been neat to train them."

Galt also called the progress Penn State's early enrollee's made this spring as simply phenomenal.

Looking at the Linebackers
When asked to assess the group, linebacker Koa Farmer didn't hold back, calling his unit the most athletic and explosive since he's been at Penn State.

"We have me, Cam [Brown], Jarvis [Miller], Dae'Lun [Darien], Micah [Parsons], I think we're just athletic," Farmer said. "The game of football is obviously changing but our unit, the linebacker unit is, since I've been here, even with Mike Hull and Brandon Bell and all those guys, to this day, we've been the most athletic unit. You'll see when we run on the field. It's going to look like we're moving like safeties."

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