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Beloved Caldwell's Dedication to Penn State Football Unmatched

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UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - Few men have poured more time, effort and energy into the betterment of Penn State Football than Brad Caldwell.

Affectionately known as "Spider" around the program, the beloved equipment manager of the Nittany Lions left a mark on the program that no one may ever touch. 

For the past 31 years, Caldwell didn't do his job for notoriety or recognition.  He worked, often from sun up to sun down, in Happy Valley because he loved his profession, and more importantly, he loved making a positive impact on those around him.

His journey to the Penn State sideline started at Curwensville High School (45 miles west of State College).  Caldwell's eighth grade science teacher talked him into being a manager for the junior high football team.  Before finishing a season with the junior high team, Caldwell was invited to become the manager of the Golden Tide's varsity team.

"I was a manager in high school for four years for three different sports, and I fell in love with it," Caldwell said.  "My eighth grade science teacher, who was a junior high coach, called me going into my ninth grade year and said I'd love to have you be a manager for my team...The varsity coach saw me, and then I went straight into varsity that year.  I did football, wrestling and baseball during my four years there.  I just loved it.  I think it was something I was supposed to do, and I really enjoyed it."

spider_4.jpgAfter graduating from Curwensville in 1982, Caldwell spent one year at Penn State's DuBois campus.  He watched the Nittany Lions win their first national title, and he knew that he wanted to be a part of the program.  Caldwell enrolled in classes at the University Park campus in the fall of 1983 with an eye on becoming a student manager.

Caldwell's first game on the Penn State sideline was at the 1983 Kickoff Classic in Giants Stadium against No. 1 Nebraska.

"Here I am, I'm from small Curwensville, and I'm in awe standing in Giants Stadium," Caldwell said.  "I'm standing there looking at the New York City skyline saying, 'what the heck am I doing here.'  What a dream come true."

On the heels of a national title, the Nittany Lions opened the '83 season with losses to Nebraska, Cincinnati and Iowa.  Staring at a 0-3 mark, members of the team and staff jokingly blamed the new guy on the block.

Penn State went on to finish 8-4-1 in Caldwell's first season as a student manager, including a victory over Washington in the Aloha Bowl.  He was part of Penn State's second national title during the 1986 season as a student.  Caldwell had classes with All-Americans Shane Conlan and D.J. Dozier.

"It was a dream come true to be a part of.  That was just so special to be a part of," Caldwell said.

For his efforts as a student, Caldwell was hired as Assistant Equipment Manager after receiving his bachelor's degree in recreation and park management in 1986.  And he has perfect attendance.

"I've never missed a game since I started," Caldwell said.  "I've been sick at a couple games.  I missed family weddings for games.  I haven't missed one since I started."

Caldwell's rapport with the players on the roster is what makes him so special.  For more than 30 years, Penn State Football and its student-athletes have been central figures in Caldwell's family.

spider_3.jpg"The thing that has made this so special is the players," Caldwell said.  "There really, truly is a Penn State family.  Karen and I never had any kids.  These were my kids.  It's kept me young.  It's the same with the student managers.  I still have four or five student managers to this day that still call me dad."

The players knew they could count on Caldwell to be at his post in the equipment room when they needed something.  He greeted them with a smile time after time after time when he tossed a new pair of socks or fixed shoulder pads.  He looked out for the players because he genuinely cared for them.

"I've outfitted more than 1,000 Penn State Football players, and it is just such a rewarding feeling.  It's a family," Caldwell said.

Spider and Karen are both members of the football community.  Karen's behind the scenes role speaks volumes about the type of people the Caldwells are.

She has sewn the bowl patch on Penn State's jerseys for 11 games, beginning with the 1993 Blockbuster Bowl when the Nittany Lions wore a Big Ten shield to promote joining the conference one season later.

"At the time, the players didn't really want the patches because they thought it was sacrilegious to put something on the uniform," Caldwell said. 

Karen Caldwell sewed all of the 100th anniversary Big Ten patches on the Penn State's 1995 Rose Bowl pants, in addition to the 1997 Fiesta Bowl jersey patch.  Beginning with the 1999 Alamo Bowl, the Nittany Lions have worn a patch on their jerseys in the past nine bowl games.

"Karen has sewn every single bowl patch," Caldwell said.

Spider packed 30 jerseys at a time into a travel bag and took them home to Karen, who sewed each patch in their log cabin outside of State College.

Prior to the 2012 season, Karen was busy.

"I took all of the jerseys home and had her sew the Big Ten patch on them," Caldwell said.  "Then, Coach O'Brien decided to go with the names on the jerseys.  I took them all home again in August, and Karen sewed all of the name panels on."

spider_1.jpgSpider did not have time to send the jerseys to Nike for the stitching of each name onto name plates, so he heat pressed them prior to the season-opener.  Nonetheless, the letters started peeling off, so he took the jerseys back home to Karen.

"I took them all back, and she started sewing each individual letter on every jersey," Caldwell said. 

A man who has a lifetime of memories as a member of the Penn State Football staff, Caldwell pinpointed one season as a favorite.

"The 1994 year was the most fun to watch," Caldwell said.  "To be on the sidelines, those guys were just machines.  I don't ever remember seeing 11 guys do everything exactly the way they were supposed to on every single play."

"I still have Kerry Collins's wristband from the Rose Bowl, and it had 10 plays on it.  That's it.  They were goal line plays," Caldwell said.  "It was just so much fun watching those guys go up and down the field."

Sifting through 31 years of memories, Caldwell's proudest moment may have come on Nov. 12, 1994 in Champaign, Ill., when the Lions rallied back from 21-0 down in the first quarter in what is likely the program's greatest comeback.

Down 31-28 and a perfect season on the line at their own 4-yard line, the Nittany Lions started an infamous drive with 6:07 on the clock.  Penn State fans across the country can envision Kerry Collins leading the team down the field for a game-winning score at Memorial Stadium, but Caldwell had a slightly different view of "The Drive."

As Collins took the snap of the first play at the 4-yard line, it began to rain.

"At the time, that game was on AstroTurf.  We had these turf shoes for the rain called 'Destroyers'," Caldwell said.  "We would change the players' shoes as it started raining because the turf would get slippery."

"So on that day, we were literally on the sideline cutting shoestrings off to get their shoes off...during the series," Caldwell said.  "We started on the 4-yard line and started working our way up during a 96-yard drive."

spider_2.jpgAs the Nittany Lions marched down the field, Caldwell was busy on the sideline feverishly cutting shoestrings off the first pair of game shoes and then putting players in the "Destroyer" rain shoes as they came off the field.  Just as the ball reached mid-field, Caldwell had changed the shoes of the last guy - All-American tight end Kyle Brady.

"I really felt part of that drive," Caldwell said.  "We were exhausted on the sideline, but to watch the score, it was just so rewarding.  I was part of that drive.  It was a neat feeling after the game to be a part of that win."

Collins finished 7-for-7 on the 96-yard drive, leading the Nittany Lions to a 35-31 victory over Illinois, and Caldwell will forever have a place in history during the epic comeback.

"Penn State is a special place because of how this program feels," Caldwell said.  "It is a classic team.  When you run out of that tunnel, you feel it.  I've been so proud to be the caretaker of the Penn State uniform."

Caldwell's place in Penn State Football history will be as an unsung, behind-the-scenes leader, but the impact he had on the student-athletes for more than 30 years is truly special.

"To think a guy from Curwensville can have the keys to Beaver Stadium is so humbling," Caldwell said.  "It's just so special to think about how many fans and alums have reached out to me over the years.  I just can't believe it.  I'm just a guy who fixes helmets and shoulder pads.  People related to me, and they made me feel so special."

To say Caldwell is grateful for the opportunity to have worked with Penn State Football for more than three decades doesn't do him justice.  The equipment room and sideline were home to him.

"I can't thank the fans, former players, former managers and coaches who made me feel so special," Caldwell said.  "It's tough to walk away from that, but I know that I have so many great memories."

Now, Caldwell's next chapter will enable him to do something he has never experienced.

"I can actually come back and watch a game without having to worry about fixing something that breaks," Caldwell said with a laugh.  "I'm going to be able to tailgate for the first time in my life."

We wish Caldwell the best of luck in his relocation to Vermont and new position at Fair Haven Union High School.



Follow GoPSUsports.com's Tony Mancuso on Twitter @GoPSUTony

VIDEO: One-on-One with Sean Spencer on the Coaches Caravan

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UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - GoPSUsports.com catches up with defensive line coach Sean Spencer at the Coaches Caravan stop in Lehigh Valley.




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VIDEO: One-on-One with John Donovan on the Coaches Caravan

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UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - GoPSUsports.com catches up with offensive coordinator and tight ends coach John Donovan at the Coaches Caravan stop in Wilkes-Barre on Tuesday.






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2014 Coaches Caravan Day IX - Erie

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VIDEO: Williamsport & Wilkes-Barre | VIDEO: East Stroudsburg & Lehigh Valley

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ERIE, Pa. - After more than 2,000 miles on the road, the 2014 Coaches Caravan drew to a close on Thursday night on Penn State's Behrend campus during a sold out evening event.

Nearly 6,300 fans attended the 17 stops, which spanned across 13 locations in Pennsylvania, in addition to Baltimore, Washington, D.C., New Jersey and New York City.  In all, 11 different Penn State head coaches joined head football coach James Franklin during at least one stop since the Caravan began on May 1 in Pegula Ice Arena.

Thursday's finale featured a new lineup of coaches, which included Franklin, baseball's Rob Cooper and softball's Amanda Lehotak.  Director of Athletics Dave Joyner joined the group, as well, addressing the crowd prior to hearing from the three head coaches. Take a look through some highlights from the final stop of the 2014 Caravan.


Stop No. 17 - Erie (Penn State Behrend)

20140522_155416[1].jpgA sold out crowd inside the McGravey Commons heard from three of the newest coaches on the Nittany Lion roster in Franklin, Cooper and Lehotak. Cooper and Lehotak each finished their first seasons at the helm of their respective programs, while Franklin will lead the Blue and White onto the field for his first game on Aug. 30 in Dublin, Ireland against UCF in the Croke Park Classic.

"The reason we are able to do the things we do and have the success in the classroom and on the competition front is because of the support and encouragement we get from our alumni and fans," said Joyner.

It may have been the last stop, but the three coaches were received with great energy and shared the visions they had for their programs. They spoke about competition, academics and representing an incredible university as a whole.

"It is an honor to represent Penn State and we all want to do what is best for this university," said Lehotak. "Coach Franklin has an incredible vision and we need to help him achieve that by packing Beaver Stadium this fall."


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Thank you to the nearly 6,500 loyal Penn State fans and alums that made the Coaches Caravan a resounding success for the third-straight year.  And a big tip of the cap goes out to Fullington Trailways ace driver Gottfried Fodor, who did a superb job behind the wheel of the Caravan bus for the third-straight year.  We look forward to seeing the fans on the road again in 2015.

"This caravan has been outstanding," said Franklin. "These three weeks have really helped me build some great relationships with other coaches, our support staff, members of the media, and most importantly, our alumni and fans."




Miles Traveled:

Day I - 165 miles

Day II - 130 miles
Day III - 387 miles
Day IV - 175 miles
Day V - 245 miles

Day VI - 267 miles
Day VII - 130 miles
Day VIII - 261 miles
Day IX - 426 miles


Total - 2,186 miles

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2014 Coaches Caravan Day VIII - East Stroudsburg & Lehigh Valley

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VIDEO: Highlights from Williamsport & Wilkes-Barre

East Stroudsburg Photo Gallery | Lehigh Valley Photo Gallery | Coaches Caravan Registration


BETHLEHEM, Pa. - The 2014 Coaches Caravan rolled through East Stroudsburg and the Lehigh Valley on the penultimate day of the 17-stop tour through the region.

Wednesday's lunch stop was a special one for head football coach James Franklin, who returned to his alma mater, East Stroudsburg University.  Head coaches Rob Cooper (baseball), Guy Gadowsky (men's hockey) and Mark Pavlik (men's volleyball) joined Franklin in East Stroudsburg.  Nittany Lion basketball coach Patrick Chambers paid a visit to the Lehigh Valley event on Wednesday evening.  Take a look through highlights of the eighth day on the road.


Stop No. 15 - East Stroudsburg (East Stroudsburg University)


 
Coach Franklin returned to his old stomping grounds for the first stop on Wednesday.  When the Fullington tour bus exited Interstate 80 it moved past the Budget Motel, which is owned by Barth Rubin.  Rubin is the man who provided the financial backing for Franklin's scholarship to play football at East Stroudsburg.

Franklin recognized Rubin as the man who provided the opportunity to kick-start his playing and coaching careers.  A 1995 graduate from ESU (psychology), Franklin was a four-year letterman at quarterback and a two-time All-PSAC selection at East Stroudsburg. He set seven school records as a senior to earn team MVP honors and was a Harlon Hill Trophy nominee as the NCAA Division II Player of the Year. Among the records he set were for total offense (3,128 yards), passing yards (2,586) and touchdown passes (19).

"It's awesome to be home.  Since we got the job, it's been great to be able to get back here on a couple of occasions," Franklin said.  "I just felt like this made a lot of sense for the Coaches Caravan to visit.  And I thought it would be great for one of our state institutions and a place I am really proud of.  I'm glad that we were able to be here."

caravan_esu_1.jpgFranklin played under legendary head coach Denny Douds, who spent some time with Franklin on Wednesday during the Caravan stop.  Douds has been at ESU for 37 years.

"Denny has been a father figure to me for a very long time," Franklin said.  "Denny has been a mentor as a father and a mentor professionally."

"The thing that makes James special is his passion for what he does," Douds said.  "He cares so much about everything he does."

In the shadows of Eiler-Martin Stadium, more than 100 Penn State and East Stroudsburg alums filled Mattioli Recreation Center to hear from Franklin and the other Penn State head coaches on Wednesday.

"To think 20 years ago that I would be sitting here in this position right now, I would have had no idea," Franklin said.  "I think what we did do is wake up every single morning and try to be the best we could possibly be, learn and ask a lot of questions.  I've always been a passionate, driven, motivated guy."

caravan_esu_2.jpgCooper, Gadowsky and Pavlik each took time during their speeches to honor Franklin during his visit to his alma mater.   

"It's really cool to see the imprint Coach Franklin is going to leave on Pennsylvania football," Cooper said.

At the conclusion of the event, East Stroudsburg president Marcia Welsh presented Coach Franklin with a resolution of recognition for his career accomplishments.  The recognition was voted on by the board of governors of the Pennsylvania State System of Higher Education.

The Coaches Caravan bus paid a visit to Rudy's Tavern in East Stroudsburg before the group left town.  Franklin treated the group to the infamous pork roll and cheese sandwiches at Rudy's, one of his college favorites.

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Stop No. 16 - Bethlehem (Sands Bethlehem Event Center)


 
Nearly 600 fans were treated to a show inside the Sands Bethlehem Event Center on Wednesday night.  For the first time in the Caravan's three-year history, five head coaches were on stage for the festivities at stop No. 16.  After the introductions, Coach Chambers was the leadoff man to get the crowd fired up.

"I'm saying this right now.  This is going to be the best night of the Caravan," Chambers yelled.

As the crowd rose to its feet, the tunes of Pharrell Williams's "Happy" began playing.  From there, Chambers moved away from the podium and began dancing to the beat across the stage.  The other coaches on stage and the fans in the crowd erupted.

caravan_lv_1.jpgChambers is made for the Coaches Caravan setting.  He loves interacting with the crowd, and he has a knack for filling the room with energy every time he steps to the microphone.  The leader of Nittany Lion basketball spoke about the progress the program made during the 2013-'14 season, including a sweep of Ohio State for the first time since 1998.

Additionally, Chambers said that he lived in Allentown 20 years ago when he started in the workforce.  He was a medical salesman with his home region being in the Lehigh Valley.  Chambers also hinted at a possible Penn State hoops game in December at the PPL Center in Allentown, which is slated to open in the fall.

The first speech closed with Chambers urging the crowd to show unrivaled support for Coach Franklin and the Nittany Lions inside Beaver Stadium.

"Let's make sure Beaver Stadium is packed every single time his team takes the field in the fall," Chambers said.

With the sports season rapidly coming to a close, the 2014-'15 campaign is just around the corner.  Fan support in Beaver Stadium provides an atmosphere unlike anything else on campus.  The same is true for each venue in Happy Valley.  Success on the field of play is a byproduct of a number of factors, and the fan atmosphere is a big piece.

"You guys create more passion and more pride than any other University in the world," Gadowsky said.

caravan_lv_2.jpgIn true hockey player form, Gadowsky closed out the speech at his final stop in the Caravan by ripping out his front tooth and screaming into the microphone.

"Get to Beaver Stadium and rock that joint!" Gadowsky said.

Coach Franklin walked to the podium to a standing ovation.

"Now that is a hockey coach!" Franklin said.

It's rare to get the head coaches of football, men's basketball, men's hockey, baseball and men's volleyball in the same room.  The fans inside Sands enjoyed an evening of entertaining speeches.  The coaches feed off of a great crowd, and the Lehigh Valley fans were superb.

"The pride and passion within the Penn State fan base in unbelievable," Franklin said.  "All the success we are having is a credit to you."

The 17th and final stop of the 2014 Coaches Caravan will take place on Thursday evening at Penn State Behrend in Erie.  



Miles Traveled:
Day I - 165 miles

Day II - 130 miles
Day III - 387 miles
Day IV - 175 miles
Day V - 245 miles

Day VI - 267 miles
Day VII - 130 miles
Day VIII - 261 miles


Total - 1,760 miles


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2014 Coaches Caravan Day VII - Williamsport & Wilkes-Barre

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WILKES-BARRE - The final leg of the 2014 Penn State Coaches Caravan kicked off with a sold out lunch stop in Williamsport and a dinner event in Wilkes-Barre on Tuesday.

Week three will feature a new lineup of Penn State head coaches joining James Franklin on the road.  Baseball's Rob Cooper, men's hockey's Guy Gadowsky and men's volleyball's Mark Pavlik boarded the modified Fullington bus on Tuesday morning when it rolled out of the Bryce Jordan Center parking lot shortly after 9:30 a.m.  Take a look through highlights of day seven on the Penn State Coaches Caravan.


Stop No. 13 - Williamsport (Pennsylvania College of Technology)


 
A sold out crowd of 270 Penn State fans filled the Field House on the Pennsylvania College of Technology campus for the first of five stops during week three.  What makes the Caravan so unique is the variety of head coaches who entertain the crowds.  With the addition of Cooper, Gadowsky and Pavlik to kick off this week, nine head coaches have now been a part of the 13 total stops.

Fresh off leading the Nittany Lion men's volleyball team to a 25-7 overall mark and a spot in the NCAA semifinals, Pavlik is on the Caravan for the third-straight year.  The men's volleyball squad battled eventual national champion Loyola to a 3-2 setback on Loyola's home floor during the semifinals.  That being said, Pavlik has firsthand experience of what a home crowd advantage can do for a team.  He can relate to Franklin's vision of a sold out stadium during every home game.

"I know what a great home crowd can do for a team.  We experienced it," Pavlik said.  "A sold out venue makes it so much more of a challenge for an away team."

williamsport_1.jpg Cooper, who finished up his first full season as head coach of the Nittany Lion baseball team on Saturday, addressed the sold out crowd following Pavlik.  The Lions made significant progress from 2013 to 2014, and Cooper is excited for what is ahead.

"Being a part of the Penn State family is unbelievable," Cooper said.  "This coaching fraternity is an amazing thing to be a part of."

It was fitting for Cooper's first stop to be in the home of the Little League World Series.  Cooper joked with the crowd that his two young sons both asked him immediately after being hired at Penn State if they could attend a game at the Little League World Series in August.

"Here we are in the epicenter of youth baseball," Cooper said.  "You know what it is like to be a part of a championship event...There are good things ahead (at Penn State)."

Gadowsky stepped to the microphone following Cooper.  Still fired up after his first season of leading the Nittany Lions inside Pegula Ice Arena, Gadowsky could not be more appreciative of what the fan base does for the men's hockey program.

"The atmosphere you created in Pegula made me a cool dad again (with my kids)," Gadowsky joked.

"The best part about Pegula is that it takes a little piece of Beaver Stadium and puts a roof over it," Gadowsky said.  "It's awesome.  I love being in there...The reason it is so addictive is because of Nittany Nation."

williamsport_2.jpgCoach Franklin headlined the 13th stop with the final speech of the afternoon.  The fan response to his message has been superb during all three weeks, and Tuesday's lunch was no exception.

"This has been great getting out here on the road and connecting with as many people as possible," Franklin said.

The bus moved east across the state to Wilkes-Barre for the first evening stop of the final leg.


Stop No. 14 - Wilkes-Barre (Genetti Hotel & Conference Center)


 
The second stop of the day took place inside Genetti Hotel & Conference Center downtown Wilkes-Barre.  Nearly 400 enthusiastic fans filled the Grand Ballroom on Tuesday night.  Luzerne County is home to more than 8,500 passionate Penn State alums.

Wilkes-Barre will forever have a place in Penn State hockey history.  Coach Gadowsky led the Nittany Lions to their first victory as a Division I program on Oct. 13, 2012 against American International.  David Glen's goal 38 seconds into overtime sealed the first win.  That game took place inside Mohegan Sun Arena in Wilkes-Barre.

"Forever, this place will have a soft place in my heart," Gadowsky said.

wilkesbarre_2.jpgIn 2013-'14, Gadowsky led the Nittany Lions to three victories over Michigan and one over Ohio State during the inaugural season of Big Ten hockey.  The fans inside the room on Tuesday are excited about Penn State hockey's future, and Gadowsky's peers are tremendously impressed with the progress the program has made in such a short period of time.

"These coaches are ordinary people who do extraordinary things with their programs," Pavlik said.

"To compete in this conference, we need all of your support," Gadowsky said.

The fan base plays a paramount role in supporting all of Penn State's teams.  Pavlik, Cooper and Gadowsky each reminded the fans in attendance of what a full Beaver Stadium every Saturday in the fall does for their programs.  The atmosphere inside Beaver Stadium during a game before a sold out crowd speaks for itself.  The same is true for Pegula Ice Arena, Rec Hall and Medlar Field, in the case of the other coaches on the Caravan Tuesday night.

That being said, the Coaches Caravan is an opportunity for the coaches to not only talk about their programs, it is a way to say thank you to the fans for their support.  Like Coach Franklin has said throughout the Caravan, the people make Penn State special.

"Penn State is like a community...It gives us an opportunity to interact with you," Franklin said.

wilkesbarre_1.jpgFranklin took time to recognize offensive coordinator and tight ends coach John Donovan and passing game coordinator and quarterbacks coach Ricky Rahne, who were in the Wilkes-Barre area recruiting on Tuesday and stopped by the event to say hello to the fans.

The Caravan rolls into Coach Franklin's alma mater, East Stroudsburg, on Wednesday for lunch before an evening reception at the Sands in Bethlehem.
    



Miles Traveled:
Day I - 165 miles

Day II - 130 miles
Day III - 387 miles
Day IV - 175 miles
Day V - 245 miles

Day VI - 267 miles
Day VII - 130 miles


Total - 1,499 miles

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VIDEO: One-on-One with Herb Hand on the Coaches Caravan

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UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - GoPSUsports.com catches up with running game coordinator and offensive line coach Herb Hand at the Coaches Caravan stop in New York City on Thursday.





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2014 Coaches Caravan Day VI - New Jersey & New York

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VIDEO: Coaches Caravan Day V Roundup | VIDEO: Coaches Caravan Day IV Roundup

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NEW YORK - Leg two of the Coaches Caravan wrapped up on Thursday with a lunch stop in Northern New Jersey and an evening reception in New York City.

New Jersey and New York City are two pivotal areas for Penn State teams when it comes to recruiting.  Additionally, the Nittany Lion fan bases in New Jersey and the New York Metro area are among the largest outside of Pennsylvania.  Take a look through the final day of week two on the Coaches Caravan, which featured James Franklin, Cael Sanderson and Erica Walsh.


Stop No. 11 - Northern New Jersey (Hanover Marriott)


 
New Jersey is home to more than 27,000 Penn State alums, which is second only to Pennsylvania.  More than 225 loyal supporters visited the Hanover Marriott in Northern New Jersey on Thursday for the Caravan's lunch in the Garden State.

In addition to being home to some of Penn State's most loyal supporters, New Jersey is a critical recruiting area for the vast majority of Penn State teams.  Women's soccer head coach Erica Walsh opened her remarks on Thursday with a story about All-American Maya Hayes, who recently graduated from the program as one of its all-time best.  Hayes is from West Orange, N.J.

"We've had tremendous success in this area," Walsh said.  "I'm thrilled to be back.  And I've spent a lot of time recruiting in this area."

nj_1.jpgThe same is true for football program.  There are currently 16 student-athletes on the football roster from New Jersey, which is second only to Pennsylvania.  Penn State has had a long line of storied success in attracting the top talent from New Jersey, and Coach Franklin wants that tradition to continue.

Franklin informed the media during the pre-event press conference that the time and resources put into recruiting New Jersey make it as if it is part of Pennsylvania.  Four members of the 2014 recruiting class are from New Jersey.

As Rutgers transitions into the Big Ten this summer, New Jersey will carry even more importance for Penn State Athletics.  The fans and alums in the local area will now have the opportunity to watch Penn State teams compete in the state on an annual basis.

"This place is very special, and it means a lot to our program," Sanderson said.

"We are really excited about the Big Ten expanding east," Walsh said.

A special group of Nittany Lion football lettermen paid a visit to the New Jersey Caravan stop on Thursday.  Members of the 1959 Liberty Bowl team had a 55th reunion table.  Head coach Rip Engle led the Nittany Lions to victory against Bear Bryant and the Alabama Crimson Tide, 7-0 on Dec. 19, 1959, marking Penn State's first Liberty Bowl victory.

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Stop No. 12 - New York City (Marriott New York Downtown)



The Coaches Caravan paid its annual visit to the Big Apple on Thursday evening to wrap up leg two.  The Caravan bus drove through the Holland Tunnel into the southern tip of Manhattan shortly before 3 p.m.  Situated just a block from One World Trade Center, head coach James Franklin and members of the Caravan staff took a walk around the new Freedom Tower structure towering over the New York City skyline.

The final event of the week took place before 300 enthusiastic, loud Penn State fans inside the Marriott New York Downtown.  The evening marked the end of Walsh's two-week stint on the Caravan.  The leader of Penn State Women's Soccer was superb each time she spoke to the crowd.  Her visualization story of a recruiting visit touched everyone in the room, and her delivery was superb.

"It's just been a thrill to be a part of this, and I am honored to be here with two of the greatest coaches that you will find," Walsh said.

After receiving another standing ovation on Thursday, a member of the crowd yelled to the stage as she sat down.

"New York loves you, Erica!"

Sanderson also finished his stint on the Caravan bus with another comical speech in New York.  While he is a terrific complement to Walsh and Franklin, Sanderson has the capability to send a large group erupting into laughter every time he brings up a new topic.  Nonetheless, his respect and appreciation of the fan base and its support speaks volumes about his enthusiasm of being a part of the Penn State family.

"You see that passion these two have, and it is unbelievable," Sanderson said.

"It has been great spending time with these two coaches," Franklin said.

The Q&A portion of the night prompted a discussion with Sanderson about the 2016 NCAA Wrestling Championships, which will take place in Manhattan at Madison Square Garden.  The Nittany Lions and the loyal fan base will have that date circled, and Sanderson is looking forward to the opportunity to wrestle in front of so many Penn State alums.

nyc_2.jpgA large portion of Coach Franklin's Caravan speech stresses the importance of academic success for the football program.  He wants to see the team achieve its highest grade point average in history, in addition to its highest graduation rate.  Thursday night's location was a living example of what a Penn State degree can do for a student-athlete.  Nearly 10 football letterwinners currently work just a few blocks from the Marriott Downtown on Wall Street.  As Franklin says, Penn State provides a powerful degree for life beyond football or any sport.

With two weeks down, the Coaches Caravan resumes on Tuesday with a lunch stop in Williamsport on the campus of Penn College of Technology.  Additionally the Caravan will pay a visit to Wilkes-Barre for an evening event on Tuesday, lunch in East Stroudsburg and an evening in the Lehigh Valley on Wednesday and an evening event in Erie on Thursday.

Thank you to the fans for making the first two weeks of the Coaches Caravan a resounding success.


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Miles Traveled:
Day I - 165 miles

Day II - 130 miles
Day III - 387 miles
Day IV - 175 miles
Day V - 245 miles

Day VI - 267 miles

Total - 1,369 miles

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VIDEO: One-on-One with Ricky Rahne on the Coaches Caravan

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UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - GoPSUsports.com catches up with passing game coordinator and quarterbacks coach Ricky Rahne at the Coaches Caravan stop in Scranton on Wednesday.





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2014 Coaches Caravan Day V - Philadelphia & Scranton

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VIDEO: Coaches Caravan Day IV Roundup

Philadelphia Photo Gallery | Scranton Photo GalleryCoaches Caravan Registration


PECKVILLE, Pa. -  The second day of leg two on the road with the Penn State Coaches Caravan featured a trip through downtown Philadelphia and a packed house in Scranton on Wednesday.

Philly natives James Franklin, field hockey's Charlene Morett and women's soccer's Erica Walsh highlighted Wednesday's lunch stop.  Additionally, four-time defending NCAA wrestling champion head coach Cael Sanderson joined the cast of coaches for Wednesday's event.  Take a look at some highlights.
    


Stop No. 9 - Philadelphia (The Rittenhouse Hotel)


 
Wednesday's lunch took place in the heart of downtown Philadelphia at The Rittenhouse Hotel.  More than 250 fans filled the ballroom to greet the four coaches during an excellent lunch event.  Franklin, Morett and Walsh had a little extra bounce in their step after the Philly natives took a drive down Broad Street en route to Center City for the lunch.

Wednesday's crowd was superb, and the group gave all four coaches a standing ovation after they spoke.  Like the gathering in King of Prussia on Tuesday night, the Philadelphia supporters of Penn State Athletics are a diehard group of fans.

Walsh has been a tough act to follow during her two weeks on the Caravan.  Her campus tour speech is filled with details and beaming with pride.  Whether it was Bob Warming, Morett or Sanderson, every coach who has stepped to the podium following Walsh has remarked about her tremendous description of the Penn State campus.  Sanderson had his first crack at following the leader of Penn State women's soccer for the first time on Wednesday.

"That's tough to follow.  I just want to have lunch," Sanderson joked.

caravan_philly_1.jpgFresh off the program's fourth-straight NCAA title, Sanderson has an endless supply of things to talk about.  But that's not his style.  Sanderson deflects the attention off of himself to talk about the positive energy surrounding the football program and how the football program serves as the engine for the health of the athletic department.

"They have the vision, the passion and the pride.  We are in very good hands," Sanderson said of Franklin and the football staff.

He went on to urge the crowd to buy football season tickets now.

"Get your tickets now because when they get going, you're not going to be able to get them in a few years," Sanderson said.

Franklin talks about the state of pride in Penn State each time he addresses a caravan crowd.  That could not be more apparent during the first nine stops during the past couple weeks.  The fan base is excited for what's ahead.  And the fellow coaches in the department are just as excited.

"There are so many things to be excited about," Morett said.

Morett finished off her stint on the Coaches Caravan in Philly.  She will now hit the recruiting trail.  From Philly, the Fullington bus rolled north towards Scranton.



Stop No. 10 - Scranton (Fiorelli Catering)



Day two of the second week wrapped up in front of the Caravan's largest crowd in Peckville, Pa. (Outside of Scranton).  Nearly 900 Penn State fans crammed into the ballroom at Fiorelli Catering to welcome a great group from the Penn State Athletics family during the local alumni chapter's 36th annual event.  The list of attendees included Northeast Pennsylvania products and current Nittany Lions Eugene Lewis, Nyeem Wartman, Gary Wooten and Brian Tomasetti and the voice of the Nittany Lions, Steve Jones.

Prior to dinner, Coach Franklin met a throng of fans that lined up more than 90 minutes prior to when the program began at 7:30 p.m.  Fan after fan walked up to Franklin for an opportunity to shake hands and take photos for nearly an hour.  Some offered advice.  Some told stories. Some even offered gifts.

Walsh and Sanderson both spoke prior to Franklin, energizing the room packed with Nittany Lion supporters.  But it was Franklin who got the room buzzing during an informal auction for game tickets to select Nittany Lion games in the fall and season tickets.  Franklin triggered a bidding war with the microphone that led to two fans battling up to $8,000 for a pair of season tickets.  When the final bid was announced as the winner, the room erupted with approval and rose to its feet.

scranton_1.jpg"In this room, I feel like I'm already in Beaver Stadium.  You can't move for all of the people," Sanderson said when describing the atmosphere.

Franklin's remarks were passionate and filled with energy as he closed out the evening's lineup of speakers.  While highlighting his vision for the football program, Franklin reminded the Scranton crowd of what is important in the quest to become the top program.

"Success is about doing all of the little things better than everybody else in the country," Franklin said.

Throughout all three speeches, the crowd of nearly 900 was glued to the speaker at the podium.  Walsh, Sanderson and Franklin all deserve a great deal of credit for their delivery on Wednesday night.

Simply put, the Scranton crowd was again tremendous for the third-straight year during the Caravan.

Before boarding the bus bound for the next stop in New Jersey, the Coaches Caravan crew paid a visit to 2012 Nittany Lion alum Eric Shrive's new restaurant - The Vault Tap Room & Restaurant - located in West Scranton.

Thursday's events will take place in Northern New Jersey and New York City before the Caravan heads back to State College.
    

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Miles Traveled:
Day I - 165 miles

Day II - 130 miles
Day III - 387 miles
Day IV - 175 miles
Day V - 245 miles


Total - 1,102 miles
    

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Follow GoPSUsports.com's Tony Mancuso on Twitter @GoPSUTony