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BLOG: Freigang Makes Immediate Impact

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By Arielle Sargent,

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - Penn State women's soccer true freshman Laura Freigang arrived just in time to lead the second-ranked Nittany Lions to a 1-1 draw in the 2016 season opener against West Virginia Friday evening at Jeffrey Field.

Making her collegiate debut in the Blue and White, Freigang entered the match at 30:47, stepping on to Jeffrey Field for the first time in front of a record-setting crowd of 5,791 fans in attendance.

Remaining in the game at the start of the second half, it was Freigang who netted her first collegiate goal just 10:10 into the second frame to break open a tied score (0-0).

Curving just enough after her release, Freigang's shot bounced off the left post and into the goal past West Virginia keeper Rylee Foster to give the Nittany Lions at 1-0 lead.

"I was pretty lucky to be honest," Freigang said. "It [the ball] took a curve to the left and just hit the post. That was pretty close, but I'm lucky."

Prior to her impressive Nittany Lion debut, Freigang had been in the United States for less than a week, having arrived in Happy Valley on Monday, Aug. 15.

Freigang's arrival to Penn State was delayed by the Union of European Football Association (UEFA) Women's Under-19 Championship, where she was playing with the women's German Under-19 team.

Traveling from Europe to University Park was no easy task though, as she had just a few days to meet her teammates and prepare to open the season against the sixth-ranked Mountaineers.

"The transition was pretty crazy at first because there was long travel and I had a bit of jetlag for a few days," Freigang said.

Jetlag and significant travel time presented no reason to be concerned, as the Oppenheim, Germany native mentioned that she's now arrived and feeling fine, having made an immediate impact for the Nittany Lion offense.  

"I feel very welcomed and I think we have a great team," Freigang said. "I think we played a good game, we just didn't finish like we should have."

The Nittany Lions looked to hold on to the lead following Freigang's goal, but West Virginia struck back with the equalizer at 76:59. With several opportunities in regulation and a pair of overtime periods, Penn State could not convert on its opportunities seeing its season opener end in a draw.

The future is bright for Freigang though, who will return with the rest of the No. 2 Nittany Lions to take on Hofstra Sunday, Aug. 21 at 2:30 p.m. in Jeffrey Field.

"Obviously with Laura's international experience and playing with the German national team, she brings a wealth of experience," head coach Erica Dambach said. "And you could see, she stepped in there and it's as if she had been with us for months and months."

"I think she's going to find herself in a couple different positions for us and play a good role for us," Dambach added. We're going to ask her to continue doing what she did tonight."

Check out Freigang's first collegiate goal below. 

Defending National Champions Set for 2016

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By Arielle Sargent, 

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - While some might believe the faint sound of the Penn State Blue Band practicing well into the evening signifies the start of fall, those who know Nittany Lion athletics know that it's the bright lights of Jeffrey Field that mean fall has officially arrived at Penn State.

Those lights will illuminate Park Avenue Friday, Aug. 19 as No. 2 Penn State women's soccer kicks off its 2016 campaign against sixth-ranked West Virginia at home in Jeffrey Field. Fresh off their first NCAA national championship in program history, the Nittany Lions return ready to defend their title with 10th year head coach Erica Dambach at the helm of the program.

Prior to Friday's opener, the Nittany Lions, who went 22-3-2 last year, will raise an NCAA championship banner and unveil a new championship tarp on the stands, welcoming Penn State women's soccer alums from around the nation.

We caught up with Coach Dambach and captains Brittany Basinger and Nickolette Driesse to talk 2016, the season opener and of course, Jeffrey Field.

In the meantime, here's five things to know before making your way out to Jeffrey Field to see Penn State women's soccer open the 2016 season. 

1.     Continuing the Culture
Coach Dambach mentioned that a key to the 2015 NCAA title, even with all the talent on the roster, was having the right culture. This year the focus is all about keeping with the foundation of a family environment to continue building championship culture.

2.     A Familiar Foe
The top-10 meeting between second-ranked Penn State and No. 6 West Virginia is not the first time the two teams have met. In fact, it's the 15th time in program history and the first time since the Nittany Lions knocked the Mountaineers out of the 2015 NCAA Tournament quarterfinals to advance to the College Cup. 

3.     Tough Competition
Four of five non-conference opponents on deck are teams that made the 2015 NCAA Tournament. After the Mountaineer matchup, the Nittany Lions will regroup and play Hofstra at home Sunday, Aug. 21. The Pride advanced to the NCAA Tournament Second Round just a year ago, having also played Penn State in its 2015 season opener. 

4.     There's No Place Like Home
Senior captain Nickolette Driesse says Jeffrey Field is like no other place in the world, echoing Dambach who added that there is no better feeling than walking through the tunnel on gameday. With a 215-24-10 all-time record at Jeffrey Field, the Nittany Lions tied a program-best mark with 14 home wins in 2015.

5.     Speaking of Jeffrey Field ...
Penn State women's soccer drew some of it's largest home crowds in 2015, helped out by the Park Avenue Army, the official Nittany Lion women's soccer supporter's club. Flags, chants and face paint means you can't miss this enthusiastic group that attends all home games and even a few on the road. Check them out or give them a follow on Twitter @ParkAvenueArmy. 

BLOG: The Matchup - QB/RB vs. LB

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The better the competition, the better prepared the Lions will be for September 3 and beyond, so will take a closer look at the camp battles between position groups this summer.

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - The middle linebacker is often called the "quarterback of the defense" - in charge of moving his unit into the best possible position to be successful on any given play. The linebackers usually stare right into the backfield to try and steal as much information from the formation as they can - information given to them by the (actual) quarterback and running backs.

This relationship is one that is predicated on being as familiar with one another as possible, while also having an aura of mystery that will allow for success each time you lock horns. While both groups credit all 11 players on their side of the ball - and the ultimate success of each play truly lies in the execution - it is the quarterback, running backs and linebackers that begin each play by getting the troops set in the best possible way.

"It starts with a left-right scan of the defense and then you make sure you look at the alignment from the safeties all the way down to the defensive line," said quarterback Trace McSorley. "As the quarterback you have to have a routine and make sure you are doing things the same way each time, it is about making sure it all looks the same to the defense."

McSorley's thoughts were echoed by teammate Tommy Stevens, who noted that every quarterback has his "pre-snap ritual" and that you can gain a lot of information by looking at the eyes of the defenders.

The defense is well aware that the eyes are the window to the play, which is why Nyeem Wartman-White is sure to keep the offensive backfield off tilt with his looks.

"We make sure we locate our keys on the offensive line, but after that we turn our attention to [the backfield]," said Wartman-White. "After that, it is about basic things, like not giving away your coverage by staring someone down or giving away zone coverage."

It's not always about the eyes, however. While both units are more focused on their positioning than what they cannot control - the other side of the ball - sometimes the mind games come into play.

"Yes, of course [there are mind games,]" said Stevens. "When we are on the practice field or in a game, everyone is competing and trying to win. We know the defense isn't just going to come out and stand around in a set look, they are going to try to trick us, and it is the same way for the offense. It's all about getting an edge."

In the end, success usually comes down to communication and preparation to make each play a success.

"We have to be on the same page, and make sure we echo the Mikes [middle linebackers] calls to the rest of the defense to help him out," said linebacker Von Walker. "We have to make sure we get the call to everyone and that we are on the same page. Then we have to make sure we know what our reads and responsibilities are."

"I wouldn't say mind games," said running back Mark Allen, "I think you just have to come out to games, practice or into the film sessions mentally prepared. It's just like scouting an opponent; you have to know what they like and what their tendencies are, after that you can just have fun and play ball."

The matchup for Wartman-White is a fun one - noting that his unit knows they compete against extremely talented running backs in practice and each Saturday during the season.

"It's always a battle," said Wartman-White, "and we know we will be seeing really good running backs all season and every day in practice. We [linebackers] just tighten the chin straps and get ready for it. If it is a mobile quarterback, you just have to be ready to make plays when you have the opportunity against [the quarterback], as well."

The work they put in during camp is critical to the successes the offense and defense has on game day, especially for the young group in the offensive backfield. With a combined 57 starts among the most experienced linebackers, McSorley, Stevens and the talents corps of running backs have their work cut out for them each afternoon under the August sunshine.

"Our linebackers do a great job of keeping us on our toes," McSorley said. "They disguise really well, so we have to make sure we are checking all of our keys and then making the best call we can. We have to do what we are taught to do, opposed to just going through one or two guys and thinking we know what all is coming."

One thing that both position groups can agree on is that the work they put in during training camp, as well as the weekly grind on the practice field during the season push each other to become better and more focused on honing their craft.

"With the way our offense is set up this season, going against those guys has really showed us we have to be more disciplined," said Wartman-White. "There are so many different ways they can hit you on each play, so you have to read your keys early and be confident and ready to make a play when it comes. Those types of things can only help us as we start playing games."

"No one team is just going to come out and not disguise their looks," said Stevens, "so with our linebackers moving the defense around during camp and making us think, it can only help us during the season. Our linebackers do a really good job on making it tough on the backfield when it comes to diagnosing what they are trying to do on any particular play."

VIDEO: Training Camp Practice Update - August 10

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UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - Head coach James Franklin, assistant coach Terry Smith, wide receiver Chris Godwin and cornerback Grant Haley addressed the media following Wednesday's practice session at the Lasch Football Complex.

Penn State opens the 2016 campaign against Kent State at Beaver Stadium on Saturday, September 3 at 3:30 p.m.

The Matchup: OL vs. DL

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By Mark Brumbaugh

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - The Nittany Lions will do plenty of drills within their position groups this month, but practicing the fundamentals in a controlled environment has its limits. That is why competition is a central tenet of the Penn State football program and not something simply reserved for Saturdays in the fall.

The better the competition, the better prepared the Lions will be for September 3 and beyond, so will take a closer look at the camp battles between position groups this summer.

One of the most unique battles is between the offensive and defensive lines. The two groups lock horns on each full contact snap, and the winner and loser on each play is decided as much by mental toughness as it is physical strength and technique. Naturally, the battle in the trenches is one of the most intense in preseason camp, so that is where we will start, before things get, shall we say, a little too intense.

"Especially as camp drags on, you don't hate the other guy, but if he gets the best of you, you might be a little upset and give him something after the play or something, but it goes either way," said guard/center Brian Gaia.

"Spring ball is intense alone, but camp is a whole other level," said defensive end Garrett Sickels. "The tempers are going. If you get beat, you have to keep it in check, but there is definitely a lot of testosterone going around. You're living with these guys and some of them are your best friends. [Offensive linemen] Andrew Nelson and Brendan Mahon are two of my best friends, but we get into it in practice sometimes."

So yeah, let's take a closer look while they still agree on things, like the importance of their August battles.

"It's everything," said guard/center Derek Dowrey. "We take more reps against them than we will anyone else all season, so the better they are, the better it makes us and vice versa."

"For three weeks we're not going against another team, we're going against ourselves, so we need the offensive linemen to be the best that they can be and give us their best look as possible to get our defensive line ready for the season, and vice versa for us," said Sickels. "We have to give the o-linemen our best look for all the d-lines they're going to play, so it is very imperative that both sides perform their best the next three weeks and we have to make sure we're very competitive and prepare each other for this season."

However, taking it easy on each other is simply not an option.

"We have to give each other good looks," said defensive tackle Parker Cothren. "In the game, there are no friends out there, so that's how we have to go out every day in practice and just remember [our opponents] are not going to take it easy on us on Saturdays, so we can't take it easy on each other."

"It's definitely a pretty intense rivalry," said Dowrey. "At this point, we've played exclusively against these guys in the spring. We haven't gone against anybody else since January. It's just been us and them banging heads for months now, so we'll get into it and we'll go day after day after day, just beating on each other. Guys get angry and there are some tensions, but it's all for the betterment of the team."

The intensity ratchets up in preseason camp as the battles take on more importance. A bad camp means your position on the opening depth chart is jeopardized, and who knows when you will get a chance to prove your abilities. For freshmen itching to play in their first year, they have to go above and beyond to earn the trust of their coaches, especially on the line, as there are limited roles for linemen to contribute in other areas, such as special teams, if they falter as dependable options in the playing rotation.

"I love camp. Not really, but I do," said Sickels. "I just love how competitive everyone gets and it's fun when we're in a live period and the offensive line is on the goal line and we're just trying to keep it out, and that's the most competitive period."

Each group has its goals. The offensive line has had extra homework as it is under completely new direction with a new offensive coordinator in Joe Moorhead and a new position coach in Matt Limegrover. They will also be protecting a new quarterback.

"All summer we've been working on attention to detail and all the small stuff, doing drills to make sure your first couple steps are perfect," said Gaia. "Coach Limegrover is a great coach, we love him and we've all bought into his system and how he wants us to play. Now it's just putting it out on the field."

The offensive line has faced strong competition recently, with three of last year's defensive line starters getting drafted into the NFL.

"It's extremely important, going against them and getting good live reps against them, just helps us for the game and it translates, especially the great d-lines we've had the past couple of years," said Gaia.

Sickels was also complimentary of his counterparts and the tests they provide on the practice fields.

"They are big dudes that love to hit and they get your hands on you, so it's a long day," he said.

Despite their talented losses, the Wild Dogs are not expecting to miss a beat, opting to dispel any notion of "rebuilding" with their expectation of "reloading." Cothren will be among the contenders looking to step up this season. He and his teammates will be using camp as an opportunity to sharpen their fundamentals under duress.

"We will be just fine tuning our tools: getting our hands right, getting our strike down, keeping our hand placement down, coming off the ball, exploding," said Cothren. "Attacking the offensive line, don't let them attack us. That's what we really try to be great at."

The defensive line also has a camp specific goal.

"I don't think Gaia showers in camp, so you just try to keep your distance from him because he just smells awful," said Sickels.

Let the rivalry begin.

2016 Penn State Football Media Day

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VIDEO: Coaches Press Conference | Media Day Extra Point
TRANSCRIPTS: James Franklin | Coordinators


UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - The Nittany Lions took the field at Beaver Stadium as a crowd of approximately 150 media members descended upon the facility Thursday for the annual Penn State football media day.

The day began with a press conference in the media room with head coach James Franklin, and coordinators Joe Moorhead, Charles Huff and Brent Pry followed on the dais before the team arrived shortly after the lunch hour for a 50-minute open session on the pristine turf beneath mostly sunny skies.


James Franklin Press Conference

Coordinators Press Conference
Joe Moorhead

Charles Huff

Brent Pry

Players Session

Mike Gesicki, TE
On the start of training camp
This is kind of what we work for all off-season. This is exactly what we are looking forward too. I know I'm happy to be here and I can speak for all of the other guys; we're all happy to be here. We're all excited to get this thing rolling and excited for the opportunity to play this game for another year for Penn State in front of our great fans.

On the new locker room in the Lasch building
The new locker room is awesome. I think that it is very appreciated by all of us ... I think we're obviously one of the top universities in the entire country and I think that that kind of showed it. I think that locker room is just another piece of trying to show where Penn State is going and where we're heading the future.

With a little help, he figured out Periscope to interview his coaches and teammates

Malik Golden, S
On the defensive unit's mindset entering the season
We are a very determined group [on defense] and that starts with our respect for our leader, coach Pry; we would do anything for him. Coach Pry is always challenging us to be the best - not one of the best - but the best defensive unit in the country.

On his final media day in a Penn State uniform
It is crazy to think this is my final Penn State football media day. It is true when they say that time flies. It is hard to believe my time at Penn State is coming to an end, but I have this season to enjoy it and show everyone just how appreciative I am of their support. When I finally look back I know there will be a lot of good times and good people. I have enjoyed all of it so far.

Johnathan Thomas, LB
On the changes from playing running back to playing linebacker
I don't think there is a huge difference. The plays are new, the assignments are new, the scheme is new, but the biggest thing for me is just getting used to taking on defenders and blocks and getting off of those. I have to focus on filling the right gap and being in the right spot to help my teammates. It's not about making people miss now, it's about not missing the opportunity to make a stop.

On what he gains from the experienced linebackers around him
Our upper classmen set a great example for our younger linebackers. We have three guys with some great experience on the field - Brandon Bell, Nyeem Wartman-White and Jason Cabinda - who all really know the defense very well, while you have two guys in Manny Bowen and Jake Cooper who played a lot last year, so I have a lot of guys I can go to when I have questions about anything.

Curtis Cothran, DE
Best thing about the start of camp
It's that time of year, again. We get to put on the pads and get things started. It is an exciting atmosphere; almost like you are back in middle school, for me, or pop warner, for most of the guys - and you are just excited to be back on the field with the guys. It is no longer just lifting and conditioning, we actually get back to football.

On his message to the younger players before the start of camp
I try to let them know that this takes a lot of work. You will be doing a lot of different things; a lot of stuff you probably didn't do in high school, and you have to just be ready. The main trait is that nobody is perfect - not even me - and everyone has to be willing to take coaching, get better and work on their craft as much as they can before the season starts.

The Wild Dogs, DL

The Defensive Backs

Trace McSorley, QB

Saquon Barkley, RB
On his first media day
[It was] pretty cool. [On the live stream] I was a little nervous, a little shaky. I don't know why because it was our guys, but maybe because it was the live internet. But when I got here, right when I sat down people got all around me and I was like "whoa, okay, it's going to be a long day." But it's just talking, and I love talking. I just slowly got more comfortable with it and now I'm fine with it, relaxed, laid back just talking football, what I love to talk about.


2016 Big Ten Football Media Day Coverage

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By Mark Brumbaugh

VIDEO: James Franklin Media Day Press Conference | Media Day Transcript | Photo Gallery

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.

Notable remarks:

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."

Full remarks

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.

Day 1 Wrap-Up

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.

Day 2
The highlights of the final day of the 2016 Big Ten Football Media Days included the Fan Session and 45th annual kickoff luncheon. Director of Athletics Sandy Barbour also met with the media. Barbour touched on a wide variety of topics including football scheduling, Beaver Stadium renovations, alcohol sales and the Blue-White game.

The fan session involved coach Franklin signing autographs and Brian Gaia joining BTN's Mike Hall and other Big Ten offensive linemen for an on-stage interview.

After the fan session concluded, it was time for the luncheon, hosted by ESPN's Joe Tessitore and Joey Galloway. Among the many speakers were Big Ten Commissioner Jim Delaney.

Tessitore and Galloway interviewed the coaches on stage in groups. Franklin joined Northwestern's Pat Fitzgerald and Indiana's Kevin Wilson to talk about the upcoming season.
The Nittany Lion contingent then returned to Happy Valley with preseason camp on the horizon.


By Tony Mancuso
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - Growing up in California, redshirt sophomore Koa Farmer probably could not have envisioned the type of experience he has already attained at Penn State.

He signed a letter of intent to attend the University Park campus in February 2014 with aspirations of being a forensic science major, in addition to playing football for a program at the highest level.

"I've always been interested in this type of work," Farmer said. "When I was growing up, watching shows like Criminal Minds, CSI, Law and Order, I just loved watching those shows. I didn't see myself majoring in something that wasn't hands on like this."

Through his first few classes pertaining to forensic science in Happy Valley, Farmer struck a relationship with a professor in a quest to learn more about the profession. Forensic Science professor Dr. Jenifer Smith's influence solidified Farmer's belief that he wanted to pursue a career in the business.

Dr. Smith was then named to lead the Department of Forensic Sciences (DFS) in Washington, D.C., last summer. Although she left Penn State, Farmer remained in contact with to lay the groundwork for an opportunity to gain firsthand experience this summer.

Farmer is taking courses, working out with his teammates and then traveling to Washington, D.C. for a rotational internship program with several organizations, including the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms (ATF), Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA), Department of Forensic Sciences (DFS) and Metropolitan Police Department of the District of Columbia (MPD).

"I'm so grateful that I had to chance to meet her at Penn State," said Farmer. "She has been a huge influence on me. The experience I'm getting this summer is amazing."

Now focusing on a double major in criminology and sociology, Farmer travels to Virginia each Friday, staying at the family home of teammate Trace McSorley in Ashburn, Va., and then commuting into D.C.

"I'm using this as a chance to figure out what I want to do," said Farmer. "That's why this has been so great being able to get some experience with so many different agencies. You can say you want to do one thing, but you just don't know until you experience it. It has been awesome this summer."

While shadowing the forensics department, Farmer helped gather fingerprints on a vehicle used in a crime and traveled to a crime scene to help gather evidence.

"It was like being in a movie. Here I was on a crime scene with this staff wearing a bullet proof vest and helping as they collected evidence and took photos of the crime scene," said Farmer.

Farmer called his Friday with the Metropolitan Police one of the most exciting days of his life.

"I was paired with the narcotics department with three other people in a car," said Farmer. "We were basically undercover while basically doing a stakeout. I'm sitting in the car when everyone moves in, and I just see everything happening as the sergeants move in."

From growth on the field as a football player to developing a career path, Farmer has already done his part in maximizing his opportunity as football student-athlete in his time at Penn State.

"The best thing for me was to come to Penn State," said Farmer. "All of the puzzle pieces are fitting. I get to play football. I get to attend a great school. I get to meet people and start my network. If I didn't come here, I would have never had the chance to meet someone like the head of the forensics department in Washington, D.C."

Farmer will continue the rotational program in Washington until the team returns to the practice field for training camp in early August.

VIDEO: 2016 Lift For Life Player Interviews

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UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - The 2016 Penn State Uplifting Athletes Lift For Life took place on Saturday (July 16) at the Penn State Lacrosse Field. The offense topped the defense, 35-27, with a late rally during Saturday's event. Here is what some of the players had to say about the event and its impact on the rare disease community.

Video: Player Interviews | Photo Gallery

By Mark Brumbaugh

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - The Nittany Lion offense retained its Lift for Life title as the unit once again rallied in the tug-of-war to claim the 14th annual head-to-head, strength and conditioning competition. The event benefitted cancer research and the rare disease community through Penn State's chapter of Uplifting Athletes.

With donation figures still to be finalized, the 2016 Uplifting Athletes fundraising efforts have lifted the 14-year total well above the $1 million mark. Fans can still make a donation to the Penn State Chapter and Lift for Life by visiting the Penn State Chapter fundraising site at or by sending a donation to PJ Mullen, Director of Player Development and Community Relations at 201 Lasch Football Building, University Park, PA 16802.

"It's crazy to think what started in a college dorm room with a couple guys has grown into what you see today and what it is nationwide, with more than 30 schools across the country holding similar events," said co-founder and Executive Director for Uplifting Athletes Scott Shirley.

The offense prevailed over the defense by a final score of 35-27 at the Penn State Lacrosse Field on a sun-splashed Saturday afternoon. A crowd of over 2,500 fans cheered on the Nittany Lions rewarding top performances and strong efforts with cheers and applause. The upperclassmen participated in the head-to-head competition pitting the offense against the defense.

Fun was had for all as more than 100 participated in a Lift for Life Kids Clinic at the south end of the turf, which was run by the true freshmen simultaneously with the head-to-head competition.

"One of the reasons I came to Penn State was because all of the community relations the team has done," junior defensive end and Uplifting Athletes President Garrett Sickles said.

"Just to have this opportunity and being in the Penn State community and seeing the effect we have on everything, especially this benefit definitely feels good."

The exhibition featured seven rotations of one-on-one battles through six events before the tug of war. The event started with the 225-pound bench press and continued with the new 160-pound overhead press. The 480-pound "farmer" hold, obstacle course relay, tire flip and sled push/pull relay rounded out the slate. The final tally was based on head-to-head victories in each individual rep (one point each) and the tug of war competition (five points each).

The team had little difficulty getting up for the July intra-squad competition.

"It's always offense versus defense competition," said Sickels with a smile. "Every time they can be in front of an audience and cut t-shirts and make them look like tank-tops, everyone is all about it. It's not hard to motivate them."

The bench press featured a three-way tie for most individual reps as, redshirt freshman offensive lineman Steven Gonzalez, junior defensive tackle Parker Cothren and sophomore defensive end Colin Castagna all put up 28.

The "farmer" hold may have featured the least action of the events, but it brought out the enthusiasm and competitive spirit of the team the most. Holding 240 pounds in each hand, the object was to simply hang on longer than your opponent in the test of physical and mental strength.

The slightest shake or sign of weakness was pounced upon by the opposition right from the start, as aptly named junior safety Koa Farmer outlasted sophomore running back Saquon Barkley with help from some trash talk (in good fun) from his defensive teammates. Later, senior offensive lineman Derek Dowrey used a stone-faced glare to prevail by getting his opponent laughing before dropping the weights.

Barkley got his redemption later in the obstacle course relay, flipping an early deficit so quickly he coasted backwards over the finish line.

The defense held a narrow two-point lead after the first six events, but the offense prevailed in a back-and-forth battle in the tug of war. The offensive line grinded out a victory in the opening match, but the linebackers pulled the tight ends and running backs over the center line in mere seconds. A rematch was declared, but the linebackers still prevailed. The wide receivers edged the defensive backs and then the offensive freshmen clinched the victory after a promising start for the defensive freshmen was spoiled when they fell down.

The Nittany Lion offense won by one point with a tug of war victory at last year's event.

Following the workout, the Nittany Lions met with their loyal fans and signed autographs.

The 14th Lift for Life was again a tremendous success and fundraiser for rare diseases, largely thanks to countless hours of preparation from the Uplifting Athletes group led by Sickels. Although a lot has changed during the events' history, there has been at least one constant.

"The principles are the same, using the power of sport to impact the community around you," said Shirley.