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VIDEO: Coaches Caravan Interview with John Donovan

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UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - Offensive coordinator and tight ends coach John Donovan talked with GoPSUsports.com during the Coaches Caravan stop in Lancaster to provide an update on recruiting and review spring practice from the offensive side of the ball. Take a look.





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2015 Coaches Caravan Day IV - Philadelphia & Langhorne

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Photo Gallery - Philadelphia | Photo Gallery - Langhorne

PHILADELPHIA - Leg two of the 2015 Coaches Caravan kicked off on Tuesday with a pair of stops before two great crowds in the Philadelphia area.

The Penn State Fullington Trailways rolled out of the Bryce Jordan Center parking lot just after 6:45 a.m. en route to downtown Philadelphia for stop No. 7 of the Caravan inside the Hyatt at the Bellevue. Take a look through highlights from the first two stops of the six-event second week of the Coaches Caravan.

Stop No. 7 - Philadelphia (Hyatt at the Bellevue)
Week two of the Coaches Caravan is set to be a treat for the fans in attendance. The coaching lineup is a who's who of leaders in Happy Valley, featuring Patrick Chambers (men's basketball), James Franklin (football), Russ Rose (women's volleyball) and Cael Sanderson (wrestling). It's rare to have four of the highest profile head coaches sitting in the same room and speaking to a crowd of passionate Penn Staters.

Nearly 100,000 Penn State alums call the Philadelphia area home, and for Chambers and Franklin the stops in Philly are a homecoming. Hailing from Newtown Square, Chambers is always fired up to spend time talking in front of his hometown crowd.

"It's a lot of fun to have a bunch of Philly guys with us here today," Director of Athletics Sandy Barbour said during the program's introduction.

Chambers kicked off the coach speeches on Tuesday with some humor.

"They chose me because I have the most hair of all the coaches," Chambers joked.

The room roared as he continued to poke fun at the other coaches on stage. Chambers has a great deal of positivity to convey about the direction of the Nittany Lion basketball program. From the team's finish at the Big Ten Tournament to the program's incoming recruiting class that ranks as the program's all-time best, the men's hoops program is on its way to a place Chambers is excited about.

"We are taking the right steps," Chambers said. "We are headed in the right direction. We are getting there. It is a process."

caravan2015_philly_1.jpgRose followed Chambers with remarks about a University he has called home for the past 36 years. The women's volleyball program's accolades speak for themselves, as do Rose's individual accomplishments. But what makes Rose so unique is that he does not care about the individual awards and honors, he cares more about the well being of Penn State as a whole.

"When Penn State wins a championship in any of our sports, we all win," Rose said. "It's not about individuals or individual teams. When one team wins, we all win."

Continuing with that theme, Sanderson has set the benchmark for success in college athletics, but never draws attention to individual accomplishments. The process of reaching the peak of success is all about approach to Coach Sanderson.

"Whatever you tell your student-athletes, you tell yourself the same thing," Sanderson. "These guys (up here on stage) live what they preach."

Franklin is a living example of what Sanderson talked about. He has spent the first 16 months on campus laying the foundation of the Penn State football program. Franklin believes in the process, and he is embracing the work that goes into being a successful program on the field and in the classroom.

"One of things we love so much about Penn State is the standard (everyone sets)," Franklin said as he looked at his fellow coaches on stage.

All four coaches on the Caravan are tremendous ambassadors for the University, largely because of their passion for the jobs they do. They all love the school and know what it means to be a Penn Stater long after the time when individuals receive their diplomas, much like the crowd in the room.

"It's part of a family and a relationship that carries on for much longer than the four years (people are on campus). That's why it is so special," said Sanderson.

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VIDEO: Philadelphia Press Conference




Stop No. 8 - Langhorne (Sheraton Bucks County Hotel)
Following lunch on Broad Street in Center City, the Caravan bus moved to Langhorne for the week's first evening reception. Just four miles from the childhood home of Coach Franklin, a crowd of more than 250 loyal fans attended the program inside the Sheraton Bucks County Hotel.

Several friends and family members of Coach Franklin, including his sister Debbie, spent the evening with the Coaches Caravan in Langhorne. It was a special day all around for Franklin. Visitor after visitor said hello to the leader of the Nittany Lions during both stops throughout a day in his hometown. At the lunch stop, Franklin's second grade school teacher waited in the photo booth line before surprising Franklin.

"It's really cool to be back here today," Franklin said. "This has been a big part of my life, and it's really cool to be back.

The Langhorne crowd was among the best thus far during the two weeks of the Caravan. The group was engaged and lively from start to finish during the program. Barbour opened the evening by explaining to the room how important the "why" is for the growth and development of the department.

"It all begins with the why," Barbour said. "Our purpose at Penn State is about delivering a world class student-athlete experience for more than 800 student-athletes.

You can't begin to think of four better representatives of Penn State's "why" than Chambers, Rose, Sanderson and Franklin.

Chambers has a way of making everyone in the room feeling so positive about Penn State. He led a rousing chant at the beginning of his speech that brought the room to a roar.

He yelled, "it's a great day to be a...." before the fans in the audience finished the remark, "to be a Nittany Lion." Chambers brings so much enthusiasm to a room that is infectious. And when it happens in Philly, his hometown fans love it.


Rose followed Chambers with a speech on why Penn State is truly unique as an athletic department. Every team matters to him. Why? It's because Penn State means everything to Rose, and that's why he has been so prideful as a leader for 36 years.

"I want to thank you for all of the things you do and the dreams and passion you bring to the University," Rose told the crowd.

Sanderson had the crowd in stiches with his one-liners and humor on Tuesday evening, but like the other coaches on stage, his message and passion are clear.

"Penn State is unique, and it's unique because of people like you," said Sanderson.

The Caravan heads to New York City and New Jersey on Wednesday.
    

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VIDEO: Langhorne Press Conference Video




Coaches Caravan Miles Traveled:
Day 1 - 129 miles

Day II - 142 miles
Day III - 444 miles
Day IV - 220 miles

Caravan Total - 935 miles


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VIDEO: Coaches Caravan Interview with Bob Shoop

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UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - Defensive coordinator and safeties coach Bob Shoop talked with GoPSUsports.com during the Coaches Caravan stop in Pittsburgh to provide an update on recruiting and review spring practice from the defensive side of the ball. Take a look.





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VIDEO: Remembering a Penn State Legend

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UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - The Nittany Lion community will not be the same without a man whose passion for Penn State bridged generations.

Fran Fisher, legendary voice of Penn State Football, leaves a legacy unlike most folks who have been connected to the University and its athletic department. Few individuals have been ambassadors for Penn State like Fisher was. His love for the University was unmatched. And his endearing persona made everyone feel inclusive.

A fixture in the first row of the back seats in the Beaver Stadium media room at weekly press conferences for head coaches Joe Paterno, Bill O'Brien and James Franklin, Fisher had an infectious presence about him that prompted anyone in the room to say hello.

The reporters, be it students or 20-year veterans on the football beat, all approached Fisher feeling as though they had known him for decades. Because that's how he made other individuals feel after a singular conversation.

The same was true on the practice fields adjacent to the Lasch Building. Fisher visited practice almost every day, never looking for attention, rather to check in on the people and program he loved. In the latter four years, the program's newest leaders, O'Brien and Franklin, made a beeline to see Fisher during practice. The same can be said for most of the student-athletes. Bare in mind that the current players on the team were born 40-plus years after Fisher began his broadcasting career in Greensburg (Pa.) in 1952, but Fisher's presence meant something to anyone on the practice field.

Often telling stories about games or reliving Coach Paterno tales, Fisher had a way of engaging a listener to make you feel part of the original event.

Certainly, Fisher's most famous calls, namely the final seconds of Penn State's first national title inside the Superdome against Georgia in 1983, will resonate with Penn State fans forever. But it's the type of person and ambassador Fisher was that will never be replaced.

The iconic voice of Penn State lived with the type of enthusiasm every day that everyone should aspire to attain.

Fran Fisher was a man who loved Penn State through and through.

The Penn State community's feelings for Fisher were one in the same.




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UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - A promise made on Memorial Day in 2008 is what motivated Stephon Morris. That promise is what helped him gain clarity in the wake of chaos during the 2012 offseason. It is what pushes him to continue the pursuit of his NFL dreams and ultimately what drove him to complete his bachelor's degree Telecommunications.

Upon committing to Penn State on that fateful day in 2008, Morris stood in Joe Paterno's office and shook his hand after vowing to not only play for the Nittany Lions, but uphold the tradition of leaving Happy Valley with his degree. He completed that promise in 2015 by finishing his coursework through the Penn State World Campus and is scheduled to graduate on Saturday.

"I remember standing in his [Paterno's] office with Coach [Larry] Johnson and Eric Shrive," said Morris. "It was my first time meeting Coach Paterno and I committed that day...I told him that I wouldn't leave without my degree."

Morris quickly made an impact on the field for the Nittany Lions, earning Big Ten All-Freshman Team honors from Sporting News. He was the only Penn State rookie to garner the honor and he admitted that his instant success on the field might have gone to his head.

He appeared in all 13 games, logged 30 stops, hauled in one interception and made his first career start in the regular season finale at Michigan State. His interception came at Illinois, a 70-yard return that closed the half and preserved a 7-3 PSU edge heading into the locker room. He also piled up five stops in three of his last four games, including five solo stops in a 19-17 Capital One Bowl victory over LSU.

"I had success as a true freshman and it is hard to tell an 18-year old kid that he needs to focus on his school work when he is having so much fun playing football," said Morris. "You tell yourself that you're not going to be the guy that lets success go to his head, but I did. I can remember Paterno talking to me about my grades. That success is not something that I handled the best."

Morris refocused after his freshman season and remembered the promise he had made, not only to his coach, but to himself and his family. He found success in his studies and on the field during the next two seasons, but during the summer of 2012 he faced another challenge when the program was handed sanctions by the NCAA.

"The entire team was gathered in the players lounge after a workout and I can remember the sanctions coming down. There were a lot of emotions; at some points you could hear a pin drop and at other points guys were yelling. I knew I had to keep my emotions in check because I needed to be a leader... I couldn't show weakness."

Morris told his father that he was staying at Penn State almost immediately and he believes that is the best decision he has made in his 24-years on this earth.

"I called my dad and said, 'I am staying. I told coach Paterno I would get my degree from this school and I am going to do it.'"

For Morris it was about honoring that commitment, but it was what happened a little later that season that really pushed him. As he sat in the squad room for what was Paterno's final team meeting, the long-time head coach spoke about taking advantage of every day you are given. He told his players to take care of one another and his message was something that struck a chord with Morris.

"Something that Coach Paterno made very clear in his last team meeting was that he wanted us to take care of each other...He was talking about the guys who came before us - the alumni - and the players that would come after us. That might have been the first time I realized how special being a part of the Penn State family was. It really put the 'Success with Honor' motto in perspective."

Those three simple words have led him to where he is today to the moment that "means the world" to him; graduation day. His on field accolades and leadership when the program needed him the most were not enough. What really mattered to Morris was being a part of the 87-percent.

"I wanted to be a part of 'Success with Honor' and the tradition of Penn State football players getting their degrees. I wanted to walk across that stage. I want to be a part of that 87-percent graduation rate. I wanted to show the younger guys in the program now that if you set your mind to it, you can accomplish anything."

Morris, a native of the metropolitan Washington D.C., had planned to make the trek from his hometown of Greenbelt, Md. to State College with nine members of his family. The journey would have taken about three hours, but instead he will continue chasing his dream of NFL success. The family trip took a detour when he was invited to Tampa Bay for an open tryout.

I am sure there are other Penn State graduates that will be missing graduation for job interviews, as well, and like them, Morris will surely make his way back to campus in the future. In fact, he plans to make Happy Valley a destination a lot in the future.

"It is amazing the brotherhood that this program has," said Morris. "To be able to walk into the Letterman's Club and see all of these guys who played in the 60s and 70s, all the way to us younger guys is amazing. You would think that some of the older guys wouldn't really know who you are, but they know you better than anyone. They are up there telling stories, handing out business cards and that makes the Letterman's Club such a special group to be a part of."

The stories Morris has from his career will stack up against many of those that populate the Letterman's Lounge throughout the fall, including his favorite Penn State anecdote: a 2012 overtime victory over Wisconsin that punctuated what brotherhood can accomplish.

Soon enough, however, Morris will have his own business cards to hand out and on them he can now proudly display: Penn State Class of 2015.

2015 Coaches Caravan Day III - Altoona & Pittsburgh

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Photo Gallery - Altoona | Photo Gallery - Pittsburgh

Day I Recap - Harrisburg & Lancaster | Day II Recap - Washington, D.C. & Baltimore


MARS, Pa. - The first week of the 2015 Coaches Caravan wrapped up in the western half of Pennsylvania on Thursday with a lunch stop in Altoona and an evening reception in northern suburbs of Pittsburgh.

The Penn State Fullington Trailways bus drove nearly three hours to the northwest from Baltimore on Thursday morning in preparation for lunch at Lakemont Park Casino. Take a look through highlights from the final two stops of a six-event leg of the Coaches Caravan.

Stop No. 5 - Altoona (Lakemont Park Casino)
Director of Athletics Sandy Barbour, James Franklin, Guy Gadowsky and Denise St. Pierre headlined the closest stop to the University Park campus on Thursday morning. The ballroom at Lakemont Casino Park hosted the fifth event on the Coaches Caravan before some of the fan base's deepest roots.

Just 45 minutes down the road from State College, Altoona is in the core of Nittany Nation. Fan after fan in the room on Thursday told the coaches and Barbour about either events they had recently attended or games they had circled on their calendars in the fall and winter.

"The heartbeat of Penn State is in Altoona," said Franklin.

One of the big pieces to the fan base in the center portion of the state is the following of the men's hockey program. Gadowsky has mentioned on a number of occasions during his three-day stint on the Caravan about what the growth of youth hockey in Pennsylvania can do for the overall growth of Penn State Hockey.

"Ideally, you want the recruiting footprint to shrink," Gadowsky said. "The more individuals who are involved with youth hockey in the state of Pennsylvania, the better off the entire state will be."

The growth of Nittany Lion hockey, along with the increased interest in youth hockey, tends to go hand in hand. It's a process Gadowsky knows will take time, but it's something he's very excited about. Locations like Altoona are big piece to the puzzle with a growing interest in youth hockey. The region's hockey footprint will grow even further with the announcement that Johnstown (just 50 miles from Altoona) will play host to the NHL's "Hockeyville" game in September.

"I've been so impressed with the interest and reception from the community on the hockey program," said Barbour. "Pegula Ice Arena is a huge piece to that, and the sky is the limit (for the program)."

The Altoona stop marked the final one for St. Pierre. The leader of the women's golf program spent the week educating the fans on the process of being a collegiate golf coach during an extended fall and spring season. She enjoyed the opportunity to interact with the fans and loved to share insight about the program.

"It's been a great ride to hang out with these fantastic people has been a great treat," said St. Pierre. "A lot of people have thanked me for being part of the Caravan, but really it has been my benefit."

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VIDEO: Altoona Press Conference



Stop No. 6 - Pittsburgh (DoubleTree by Hilton in Mars, Pa.)
The Caravan visited a spot near and dear to Coach Franklin en route to the evening reception in Cranberry Township on Thursday. The bus weaved through the Lincoln-Lemington-Belmar section of Pittsburgh (northeast of downtown along the Allegheny River) where Franklin spent a lot of time as a kid. The group met up with childhood friend Keith Gardner (known as "Mighty" from his pickup sports days) near Franklin's Aunt Janet's home on Lemington Ave. The group toured a park where Franklin and "Mighty" played a lot of pickup football and basketball growing up.

"It was really cool. I hadn't been there in probably 30 years," said Franklin. "I come back to Pittsburgh all the time and even did for family functions before Penn State, but to actually go to some of those places today that I haven't been in a long time was really cool."

caravan_pittsburgh_3.jpg The more than 260 attendees inside the Grand Ballroom of the DoubleTree by Hilton in Mars were thrilled to welcome Franklin, Gadowsky and Deputy Director of Athletics & Chief Operating Officer Phil Esten, along with football assistants and Pittsburgh natives Bob Shoop (Oakmont) and Terry M. Smith (Monroeville).

The talk of the room from the fans focused on a number of topics, but there is a general excitement surrounding the hockey program's regular visits to Pittsburgh and the football team's four-year series with Pittsburgh, which begins at Heinz Field on Sept. 10 in 2016. The supporters in Pittsburgh are fired up about Penn State teams playing in their backyard.

"I think people are excited about it, especially in this region," said Franklin. "We are playing in '16, '17, '18 and '19...There is a lot of history and tradition with it. Generally, I'm in support of keeping the dollars in the state and supporting high school football and programs in the state. And in a lot of ways, there are some really good arguments you could make why it makes sense."

The Nittany Lions and Panthers last met inside Three Rivers Stadium in 2000. The series is slated for four-straight seasons, but Franklin indicated in the press conference prior to the event that both sides are open to discussions about the potential for more games in the future.

As for the hockey program, since Penn State has been a Division I program, the Lions have played in Pittsburgh each season. Every game has been well attended by Nittany Nation. Home to 56,000 alums in the greater metro area, the Steel City is home to some of Penn State's most loyal followers.

With the conclusion of a superb event in the Pittsburgh area, the first leg of the Coaches Caravan is wrapped up. The circuit will pick back up on May 19 in Philadelphia. A big thank you goes out to the fans who attended all six stops during week one.

"That's what these caravans are all about and that's what makes this so special," Franklin said. "We don't get to do this often, and we just want you to know how truly important you are to what we do...The thing that will always make Penn State special is the people."
    

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VIDEO: Pittsburgh Press Conference Video


Miles Traveled:
Day 1 - 129 miles

Day II - 142 miles
Day III - 444 miles

Caravan Total - 715 miles


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2015 Coaches Caravan Day II - Washington, D.C. & Baltimore

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Photo Gallery - Washington, D.C. | Photo Gallery - Baltimore

Day I Recap - Harrisburg & Lancaster

BALTIMORE - The Coaches Caravan traveled southeast on Wednesday on day two of the first leg, making a pair of stops in Washington, D.C., and Baltimore.

The Penn State wrapped Fullington Trailways bus rolled into the nation's capital on Wednesday morning for a lunch stop to kick off the day. Take a look through highlights from the second two stops of a six-event week on the Coaches Caravan.

Stop No. 3 - Washington, D.C. (JW Marriott)
Raised in Annapolis, Maryland, Director of Athletics Sandy Barbour kicked off the panel of speakers with a story about how she was introduced to the prideful fan base of the Nittany Lions. The D.C. area is home to approximately 26,000 Penn State alums. Barbour cited that many of the folks sitting in the room played a big role in establishing her feelings about the University.

"You all taught me about Penn State," said Barbour. "Growing up in the area, I learned a lot of my initial feelings and in a lot of ways had my introduction to Penn State from people like you."

Each year on the Caravan, the trips to the DMV are always filled with enthusiastic fans of the Blue and White. And it's a critical area for recruiting.

"This is going to be a very, very important area for us moving forward in recruiting," head coach James Franklin said. "It's always been a big part of Penn State Football, and it will continue to be very important."

Additionally, with the expanded footprint of the Big Ten Conference, the Penn State fans in the DC area will have more opportunities to see the Lions play closer to home.

In addition to games at Maryland across all of the Big Ten's sanctioned sports, the 2017 Big Ten Basketball Tournament will be contested in Washington, D.C., from March 8-12 in the Verizon Center.

Among the attendees in D.C. on Wednesday was captain in the U.S. Navy. Looking at the diehard Penn State fan, hockey head coach Guy Gadowsky singled the man out during his speech about the Nittany Lion supporters. Gadowsky said the Navy captain came up to him prior to the lunch to inform him of a new tradition started during the Michigan hockey series. The captain brought tailgating to the parking lot during the coldest weekend of the year, and Gadowsky loved it.

"How are you not fired up to play in Pegula Ice Arena when you have someone like a Navy captain tailgating outside in the snow before our game?" Gadowsky said.

What gives the Caravan a unique touch are stories and meetings like the one Gadowsky had with the Naval captain. Penn State's fan base is one big family. Each coach on the Caravan uses the experience to learn about the fans and engage with them. It helps the fans understand how important the support is for each program on campus.

"Our philosophy is built on relationships and how we interact with people," head coach James Franklin said.

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VIDEO: Washington, D.C. Press Conference




Stop No. 4 - Baltimore (Hilton Baltimore BWI Airport)
After a quick look at the White House before leaving Washington, the Caravan traveled north to Baltimore for stop No. 4 during the week at the Hilton near BWI Airport. The greater Baltimore area is home to nearly 10,500 Penn State alums, and like Washington, the Caravan crowd is always energetic at stops in the DMV. Wednesday evening's event was no different.

Barbour, and head coaches James Franklin, Guy Gadowsky and Denise St. Pierre received a rousing ovation from the moment they stepped on the stage inside Thurgood Marshall Ballroom.

It's going to be a big year ahead for Penn State and the Baltimore area. The Nittany Lions are slated to meet Maryland on October 24 in M&T Bank Stadium. The game will mark Penn State's first game in Baltimore since Nov. 9, 1991 when the Lions topped Maryland, 47-7, in Memorial Stadium.

The DMV is home to 19 players on the 2015 football roster. That list includes seven returning players who hail from the state of Maryland. For decades, the Baltimore-Washington, D.C., area has been pivotal recruiting ground for the football program. That is not going to change in the eyes of Coach Franklin.

caravan15_baltimore_1.jpg Assistant coaches Charles Huff and Sean Spencer were in attendance on Wednesday evening after spending the day recruiting in the area. Additionally, junior offensive lineman Brian Gaia (Pasadena, Maryland) was in attendance. Gaia stood and recited the program's four core values when called upon during Franklin's speech.

Maryland is an area Franklin and Gadowsky are quite familiar with. They both have family members in the state. And Franklin spent several years of his professional career in the local area.

"Being able to come around to different areas around the region is great, and we love to come out and say thank you," Franklin said. "The fans have been so supportive since we got here last year, and places like this are big reason we have felt so welcome."

An Annapolis native, Barbour spoke on Wednesday evening about having the opportunity to come home when she took the job as Director of Athletics for Penn State in August. Her passion for the Blue and White is evident every time she speaks. Barbour loves every ounce of her job and takes great pride in leading a department that sets the standard for academic and athletic excellence.

"All of the reasons why I came to Penn State have all come true and more," Barbour said.

The first week of the Caravan will conclude on Thursday with stops in Altoona (lunch) and north of Pittsburgh (evening reception).

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VIDEO: Baltimore Press Conference



Coaches Caravan Miles Traveled:
Day I - 129 miles
Day II - 142 miles

Caravan Total - 271 miles

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2015 Coaches Caravan Day I - Harrisburg and Lancaster

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Photo Gallery: Stop #1 - Harrisburg | Photo Gallery: Stop #2 - Lancaster

LANCASTER, Pa. - The 2015 Penn State Coaches Caravan hit the road on Tuesday with a pair of events in the heart of Nittany Lion country at Harrisburg and Lancaster.

The Penn State themed Fullington Trailways bus pulled out of the Bryce Jordan Center parking lot at 7:04 a.m. en route to Harrisburg. Take a look through highlights from the first two stops of a six-event week on the Coaches Caravan.

Stop No. 1 - Harrisburg (Best Western Premier)
Director of Athletics Sandy Barbour and head coaches James Franklin, Guy Gadowsky and Denise St. Pierre headlined the first day of the road tour on Tuesday. The trip began with a visit to the Pennsylvania State Capitol Building. Members of the travel party toured the ornate structure, which was built in 1906 at a cost of $15 million.

Just after 10 a.m., Barbour, the head coaches and Penn State Alumni Association Executive Director Roger Williams participated in the opening of the Pennsylvania House of Representatives session for May 5. Representative Frank Farry introduced Franklin before the head coach of the Nittany Lions addressed the room of state representatives. Farry, who hails from Bucks County, and Franklin both graduated from Neshaminy High School.

"I can't tell you how honored we are to be here and address the House of Representatives," said Franklin.

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 From the Capitol Building, the bus traveled to the Best Western Premier for the opening stop of the two-week tour through the region. Barbour spoke to the crowd first, highlighting the department's "why" and her vision for Penn State Intercollegiate Athletics. Everything within the department begins with the "why", and the student-athletes are at the forefront.

"We want to create a world class environment for our student-athletes to help them prepare for life after earning their degrees," Barbour said.

While it is mentioned regularly, the support Penn State fans provide for the athletic department and its 800 student-athletes is something that should never be taken for granted. And Barbour, along with the coaches, would like to use the Coaches Caravan as an opportunity to simply say thank you for the fans' unrivaled commitment.

"The fact that so many people are here with us (today) is tremendous," said St. Pierre. "The fact that all of you stuck with us makes us feel so fortunate."

"One of the best things about this for me is getting to learn from these other coaches," Gadowsky said. "The second thing that I love about this is getting to be around people who share the same amount of passion as you."

Gadowsky's remarks were a transition into a comical story about a fan's commitment to the hockey program. One of the approximately 250 fans in attendance on Tuesday for lunch had been struck while attempting to catch a puck during a Penn State men's hockey game this winter. He met Gadowsky before the program began and showed him some of his battle scars. As the crowd roared with approval, the man pulled the puck from his pocket and waved to the fans while Gadowsky applauded him for sticking with the game and not leaving despite black eyes and a bloody face.

"This is the type of guy I want at our hockey games. He didn't leave!" Gadowsky said.

Franklin promptly asked the fan if he had any eligibility left because he wants that type of commitment within the football program. The second-year leader of the Nittany Lions then highlighted the program's stellar academic success in 2014-'15. Fifty-seven players achieved a 3.0 GPA or higher during the fall semester. Additionally, 21 true freshman earned a 3.0 GPA or better in the fall. Graduation and success in the classroom will always be at the top of Franklin's list of accomplishments for the growth of the football program.

Emphasizing the program's four core values is a staple for Franklin moving forward. He told the crowd that the players and staff members did a good job of memorizing the values - positive attitude, unrivaled work ethic, compete in everything you do and sacrifice - but now he wants to see the program live them.

With five more days on the caravan ahead, the theme of each discussion will focus on what makes Penn State so special - the people.

"I love to take this time to say thank you," Franklin said. Having the opportunity to come out and thank you personally means a lot to me."


VIDEO: Harrisburg Press Conference



Stop No. 2 - Lancaster (Marriott at Penn Square)

More than 360 boisterous Penn State fans greeted the Coaches Caravan in Lancaster on Tuesday night. The crowd was enthusiastic from the moment Roger Williams, Executive Director of the Penn State Alumni Association, welcomed the group with a rousing "We Are" chant in the Commonwealth Ballroom of the Marriott at Penn Square.

Barbour, Franklin, Gadowsky and St. Pierre were joined during the pre-event reception by assistant football coaches John Donovan and Brent Pry, who were in the area recruiting on Tuesday. Donovan and Pry, along with the rest of the assistant coaches have been on the recruiting trail since spring practice wrapped up with the Blue-White Game.

Like the first stop in Harrisburg, Barbour opened the evening with a speech updating the fans and alums in the room about the current state of Penn State Athletics. With 500 of the 800 student-athletes receiving a 3.0 GPA or higher, the department's academic excellence speaks for itself.

Additionally, on the field, it has been a stellar campaign for Penn State teams, as well. Currently sitting in second spot in the Learfield Directors' Cup following the winter season, Penn State had 15 of its 17 teams (through the winter seasons) NCAA postseason competition. That list includes four teams that won conference titles, a record seventh NCAA title for women's volleyball and three individual NCAA championships.
    

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It's no surprise to see the academic and athletic accolades when you hear the coaches speak to the public. Franklin, Gadowsky and St. Pierre are just three examples of what is a tremendous lineup of coaches on the University Park campus right now.

"I continue to listen to the gratitude and passion from our coaches towards their student-athletes, and it's just so impressive," Barbour said.

The success of Penn State's teams on the field and in the classroom would not be possible without superb mentors, and it would not be possible without the support of individuals like those in the room on Tuesday night in Lancaster.

"No one in the nation does passion like we do, and it's not even close," Gadowsky said. "Not only is it fun to be a part of a family reunion (home game), it's very motivating for us."

The sense of pride in Penn State Blue and White is truly unique.

"There is no place like us," Franklin said.

The Caravan will extend outside of Pennsylvania on Wednesday when it rolls south to Washington, D.C., and Baltimore.
    

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VIDEO: Lancaster Press Conference




Miles Traveled:
Day 1 - 129 miles


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Coach Franklin Tosses Strike in Yankee Stadium

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yankeesblog_4.jpgUNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - Compete in everything you do. It's one of the football program's four core values, and it's the mantra head coach James Franklin lives by.

He took that competitive energy onto the mound at Yankee Stadium on Tuesday night prior to the Yankees-Tampa Bay Rays game and delivered a strike during a ceremonial first pitch as part of a celebration of the team's Pinstripe Bowl championship.

Upon arrival in the Bronx, Franklin and a small group of staff members toured the stadium and some of the organization's most prized artifacts, including holding a 45-ounce bat used by Babe Ruth in 1927. The leader of the Nittany Lions presented Yankees manager Joe Girardi, who is a college football fanatic, with a signed Penn State helmet on the field during batting practice.

The group watched the Yankees take batting practice from behind home plate while mingling with members from the Pinstripe Bowl and Yankees organization. From there, Franklin shifted into prep mode for the opening pitch. He used just four practice tosses into the batting cage nets in the Yankees clubhouse before walking onto the mound to a rousing cheer.

"I have tremendous training for this. I played highly competitive Little League baseball about 30 years ago," Franklin joked before the pitch.

As promised, Franklin worked from a wind up and tossed the ceremonial pitch with some heat on the corner of the plate before a "We Are" chant rang through the area behind home plate as the mit popped.

"I had an awesome experience," Franklin said. "They've been great to us since we arrived in town, and really the whole bowl experience carried over. I went out on the mound, let it fly and had some fun...It felt good. I tried not to think about it a lot and just let it fly. It went somewhere near the plate and had a little bit of velocity on it."

Much like the bowl week in New York, the Pinstripe Bowl and Yankees staff members were tremendous hosts and first class for the Nittany Lions on Tuesday. Fans heading to Yankee Stadium will find a mural documenting Penn State's thrilling 31-30 win over Boston College in the 2014 Pinstripe Bowl.



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Nittany Lions Wrap Up Spring with Confidence, Eye 2015 Season

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11013837.jpegVIDEO: James Franklin Postgame Interview | VIDEO: Postgame Player Interviews

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - Sunny skies and 68,000 fans greeted the Nittany Lions inside Beaver Stadium during the final day of spring practice for the 2015 season.

After a practice period marked by superb progress, the Nittany Lions will head into the final few weeks of the spring academic semester and summer with a great deal of confidence. The Blue topped the White, 17-7, during a productive Saturday for the Lions.

"We got what we wanted to get out of it," said head coach James Franklin. "We stayed healthy, which is the most important thing, especially in our situation. We were able to mix the run and the pass. Obviously, our defensive line still holds an advantage over our offensive line. That's going to be a work in progress and a focus in the offseason. It was great to see some of the running backs like Nick Scott and Akeel Lynch make some plays, but we had great work. We had two real teams. We didn't end up having to run guys from one side to the other, so guys got a bunch of reps."

Penn State practiced 15 times between March 20 and April 17 before the spring season culminated with the four quarters of action inside Beaver Stadium on a sun-splashed day with a terrific crowd.

The fan support Penn State Football receives throughout a year is unique, and Saturday was no exception. From the autograph session to the spring game festivities, the Nittany Lions truly embraced the opportunity to spend a day with so many loyal supporters of the program.

"The guys worked really hard this spring, and to be able to come out today and play in front of such a great crowd was huge for us," Hackenberg said. "It was great to meet so many fans today because they are such a big part of what we do. It was a great day."

"It's a pretty cool experience to be out there in front of 68,000 fans for a spring practice," said running back Akeel Lynch. "

In his first spring as a the featured back, Lynch excelled for the Nittany Lion offense. He finished with nine carries for 50 yards, including a 22-yard touchdown run for the Blue team. Lynch and the Penn State offense took full advantage of this being year two in the offensive scheme. The unit's increased comfort level led to a greater degree of execution.

"I think we did a lot of great things as a unit," Hackenberg said. "I think as a unit we also have a lot of things we need to work on for next season. I try to execute everything I am asked to do to the best of my abilities."

A big piece of the offense's growth is the line's progression since the season ended at the Pinstripe Bowl. The growth process will continue through the summer, but the Nittany Lions have taken a big step forward along the offensive line.

"I think we are way ahead of where we were at this point last year," said Franklin. "As a group, we still have a situation now where we still have guys trying to learn left tackle, which I think showed up at times today. But as a group, four out of the five in totality of it, we still have a lot of work to do. I am confident that between now and the start of camp, we can take another step and then continue to grow during camp and be ready to go."

Defensively, the Nittany Lion front four headlined a strong set of practices for coordinator Bob Shoop's unit. Sure, the defense entered the spring without starters Mike Hull, Adrian Amos, Deion Barnes and C.J. Olaniyan, but the Lions didn't skip a beat.

"We're a deeper unit. Garrett Sickels and [Carl] Nassib have had an excellent spring," defensive coordinator Bob Shoop said. "They played very, very well. You saw Evan Schwan wreak havoc and was pretty dominant today at times. Curtis Cothran's a good player and Torrence Brown's a very good player. So I feel like we have a really, really, really good situation at those positions right there. Those guys are playing exceptionally well."

Penn State will look to finish the semester strong in the classroom before the summer conditioning program begins. With a spring marked by positive growth, the Nittany Lions have a great deal to look forward to when fall camp begins in early August.

Saturday's spring game was the final time the fans will see the team before action commences in Lincoln Financial Field against Temple on Sept. 5. The window of opportunity for growth between now and the opener is a big one for the Nittany Lions, but with the foundation laid this spring, the Lions are well on their way to a strong start for 2015.

"We made great strides on offense and on defense, and it was great for the fans to come out in such big numbers to see us," said Trevor Williams. "Now, we need to take the next step and get even better."


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