By Mark Brumbaugh
CHICAGO - The hype for the 2016 college football season went up another level as Coach James Franklin and seniors Brandon Bell, Brian Gaia, and Nyeem Wartman-White traveled to the Windy City to represent Penn State for the 2016 Big Ten Media Day inside the Hyatt Regency McCormick Place in downtown Chicago Monday.
The annual event includes the entire league's head coaches and three student-athletes from each member institutuion. Franklin and the trio of players participated in a wide range of activities with local and national media throughout the day. Take a look through highlights from the whirlwind day.
7:30 a.m. - Wheels up!
The day started with a smooth flight to Chicago in the morning.
9:00 a.m. - We're here.
After checking into the Hyatt, the first task for Nyeem was to capture a Pokemon in the elevator on the way down to breakfast.
10:00 a.m. - The interviews begin!
From radio and TV to print and the web, the Nittany Lions began talking with journalists across the spectrum. The morning focused more on Coach Franklin. He began his day with BTN, first visiting with The Journey and then BTN.
Wartman-White visited with a familiar face, talking with the Centre Daily Times' Jourdan Rodrigue.
Coach Franklin hit the airwaves joining Sirius XM College Sports Nation, talking with Greg McElroy and Taylor Zarzour.
Franklin then returned to the cameras meeting with the likes of CBS and ESPN.
12:45 p.m. - Franklin meets with the media.
After lunch, Coach Franklin held a formal press conference.
On starting the season:
"There's an excitement for the season. All the hard work and preparation that they've put in, there's an anticipation and there's a confidence right now. There's a confidence with our guys I think probably similar feeling all over the country but everything that we've been through and the challenges that we've been through over the last couple of years, I feel great about our locker room right now."
"I feel great about our team and the commitment and the work ethic and the leadership we've had. Obviously our first year being back to the 85 scholarships which is significant. I've spent the last couple of months going back and changing all of our practice schedules and everything that we're doing in terms of reps, the amount of time that we're out at practice, increasing the reps that we're having at practice because we had modified all those in the past. Reducing those numbers, getting those numbers back up."
1:15 p.m. - TV Hour
The three student-athletes saw their day get hectic in the afternoon starting with "TV hour". The trio bounced between the likes of BTN, ESPN, CBS and FOX. Questions ranged from the serious to the humorous.
Brandon Bell started with The Journey, where he discussed what it meant to be a senior, to be a linebacker at Penn State and how LaVar Arrington enlightened him on what it means to wear #11 at Penn State.
Bell wasn't the only one to discuss a legdary Lion of the past.
In response to some more fun questions, Brian Gaia brought up his Stone Cold Steve Austin costume from past Halloweens, which led to a Macho Man Randy Savage impersonation for College GameDay.
2:20 p.m. - Camera Time
The trio had fun with the cameras for the BTN photoshoot. They boldly claimed that they made the best GIF ever, so be on the lookout for that.
3:15 p.m. - Podium Session
The most intense grilling came at the end of the day, as for nearly one hour, Coach Franklin, Bell, Gaia and Wartman-White commanded podiums as they faced a media "scrum." Coach and players conveyed their excitement for the season and their confidence in this year's team.
Coach Franklin and players wrapped up the session by joining Dave Revsine and company live on BTN.
It was a busy day for all four, but there is more to come Tuesday. They will partake in assorted interviews Tuesday morning and then participate in the 45th Annual Big Ten Football Kickoff Luncheon. Beginning at 10 a.m., every Big Ten head coach will be available for an autograph session while Brian Gaia will be among those interviewed on the main stage. A photo session featuring the coaches and players will take place at approximately 10:45 a.m. After lunch, the Lions will return to Happy Valley.