**

Blog

Recently in Football Category

Nittany Lions at the 2016 NFL Combine

| No Comments | No TrackBacks

16nfl_combine_blog1.jpg

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - Indianapolis will be a hub of activity throughout the weekend as Lucas Oil Stadium hosts the 2016 NFL Combine.

Penn State will five representatives participating in the combine activities, beginning on Thursday when the school's all-time leading passer, Christian Hackenberg, kicks off the process in Indy. Hackenberg, Austin Johnson, Jordan Lucas, Carl Nassib and Anthony Zettel are all set to participate at this year's NFL Combine.

Approximately 332 players are going to be in attendance at one of the most important steps in the NFL Draft preparation process. The NFL Combine entails measurements, medical examinations, and testing, in addition to on-field timing and skill work. The measurable drills include: 40-yard dash, bench press, vertical jump, broad jump, 3 cone drill and shuttle run.

Penn State at the NFL Combine Schedule
Thursday, Feb. 25
Media interviews for quarterbacks - Christian Hackenberg

Friday, Feb. 26
Media interviews for defensive linemen - Austin Johnson, Carl Nassib, Anthony Zettel

Saturday, Feb. 27
Media interviews for defensive backs - Jordan Lucas
On-field workouts for quarterbacks - Christian Hackenberg

Sunday, Feb. 28
On-field workouts for defensive linemen -
Austin Johnson, Carl Nassib, Anthony Zettel

Monday, Feb. 29
On-field workouts for defensive backs - Jordan Lucas



The NFL Network will have wall-to-wall coverage on TV. Additionally, there will be a live stream beginning on Friday at 9 a.m.

NFL Combine Live Stream



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

VIDEO: Tim Banks 1-on-1 Interview

| No Comments | No TrackBacks

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - With 20 years of collegiate coaching experience and nine seasons as a defensive coordinator, Tim Banks became Penn State's co-defensive coordinator and safeties coach on Jan. 18.

Banks spent the last four seasons at Illinois working as the co-defensive coordinator and secondary coach. In the midst of the final push leading up to signing day on Feb. 3, Banks spent the vast majority of his first two weeks on the job recruiting across the region with the rest of the coaching staff to help secure Penn State's third consecutive group of signees ranked in the top 25.

A Detroit native, Banks is thrilled to continue his coaching career in the Big Ten as he gets set for his first spring on the field with the Nittany Lions. GoPSUsports.com spent time with the co-defensive coordinator and safeties coach in a one-on-one introductory interview. Take a look.





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

Penn State Athletics THON 2016 Coverage

| No Comments | No TrackBacks

IMG_9032.JPGUNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - Penn State Athletics was heavily involved with the 44th IFC/Panhellenic Dance Marathon (THON) held at the Bryce Jordan Center over the weekend.

THON's 708 dancers began standing at 6 p.m. on Friday and did not sit down or sleep until Sunday at 4 p.m. to raise awareness for the fight against pediatric cancer in the largest student-run philanthropy in the world.

Since 1977, THON has partnered with The Four Diamonds Fund at Penn State Hershey Children's Hospital with one goal in mind: conquering childhood cancer. To date, more than $136 million has been raised by THON. THON revealed a fundraising total of more than $9.7 million for 2016 with 96 percent of THON's all-time funds being donated directly to Four Diamonds. 

Each year, more than 15,000 Penn State student volunteers dedicate their time to THON, making it the largest student-run philanthropy in the world.

Members of Penn State's Student Athlete Advisory Board (SAAB) were active participants in THON, and led run several fund-raising activities once again this year including sending solicitation letters to friends and family and a lip sync competition. In addition to generating financial support for THON, SAAB also provides emotional support to its THON children, Isabella Messina and Colton Buckley, and their families throughout the year.


Four Penn State student-athletes are represented SAAB as dancers in THON 2016: Liisi Vink-Lainas (Wynantskill, N.Y.) and Angela Widlacki (Naperville, Ill.) of women's soccer, Emily Rivers (Washington, D.C.) from women's tennis and Matt Zanellato (Burke, Va.) from football.

"This means the world to us. As athletes you are given a platform that a normal student might not have," said Zanellato. "It's one of those things that when you come in as a freshman, you know that you will have that platform for a few years. I wanted to make the most of it. I realized that THON was something special to me when I came to Penn State. I wanted to use my platform as best I could."

Additionally, Angela Connors and Jessica Spellman from the Lionettes squad and from Penn State cheerleading Kenny Fuhrman, Paige Gentry, Jordan Hinkle, Kylie Tobasco and Mike White danced in THON.

Within Penn State Athletics, strategic communications student assistants Emily Hesidence and Kate Brandell were also among the dancers at THON, as well.


Check out the GoPSUsports.com extensive coverage from THON 2016 weekend.


Friday - 6 p.m. - THON 2016 Begins
The 46-hour dance marathon kicked off at 6 p.m. on Friday evening when the 708 dancers stood. They will remain on their feet until Sunday afternoon at 4 p.m.

Thon_blog_1.jpg


Saturday - 9:30 a.m. - Student-Athlete Interviews
With Bryce Jordan Center buzzing with energy during the 16th hour of THON 2016, GoPSUsports.com spent some time with student-athletes and THON dancers Liisi Vink-Lainas  and Angela Widlacki of women's soccer, Emily Rivers, from women's tennis and Matt Zanellato from football. Representing Student Athlete Advisory Board (SAAB), the group is thrilled to carry the Penn State Athletics banner as dancers in the 2016 THON. Take a look at some of their remarks from the floor at the BJC.



THON 2016_Blog 2.jpg
Saturday - 2 p.m. - Football Hosts THON Explorers Event
Approximately 40 members of the Nittany Lion football team welcomed approximately 30 THON Four Diamonds children and their families to a special event inside the Lasch Football Building on Saturday afternoon as part of the THON Explorers program.

The THON event in Lasch is circled on the calendar for the Nittany Lions every year. The THON families gathered inside the home of Penn State football to take photos, get autographs, participate in athletic stations, tour the facility with the Nittany Lions, eat ice cream from the Penn State Creamery and take a group photo.

The Nittany Lions formed a high-five tunnel for the families upon entry into the building before the student-athletes took the families around the football facility. Take a look at the THON Explorers event at the Lasch Football Complex on Saturday.

Football THON Explorers Event



FB_THON16_1.jpgFB_THON16_2.jpg
Saturday - 6 p.m. - Student-Athletes Participate in Athlete Hour
Athletes from several teams on campus spent times with the THON Four Diamonds children inside the IM during athlete hour on Saturday.  Here are a few snapshots and video highlights from the event.

Athlete Hour Photo Gallery



9184288.jpeg9184274.jpeg9184273.jpeg
Saturday - 11 p.m. - Football Wins Pep Rally Dance Competition
One of the THON highlights every year comes on Saturday night when the teams of Penn State Athletics hop on stage and compete in a dancing competition during the annual pep rally. In all, 12 different teams competed in the 2016 version of the dance-off.

The pep rally included a speech from former Nittany Lion football great Devon Still and his daughter Leah.

As for the dance competition, the football team claimed top honors in the men's side of the action, while the reigning national champion women's soccer team took top honors on the women's side. The two teams then battled in a dance off, with the football team earning the bragging rights as the 2016 THON Pep Rally dancing champion.

We have highlights of every team dancing on Saturday night at THON. 

THON 2016 Pep Rally Photo Gallery



9185732.jpegTHON 2016 Pep Rally Full Dances
Football (Men's & Overall Champion) 
Women's Soccer (Women's Champion)
Men's Fencing
Men's Golf
Men's Gymnastics
Men's Hockey
Men's Rugby
Men's Soccer
Men's Tennis
Men's Volleyball
Field Hockey
Women's Golf
Women's Gymnastics
Women's Hockey
Women's Rugby
Women's Volleyball

Sunday - 11:30 a.m. - VIDEO: Coach Franklin Addresses THON 2016
Head coach James Franklin took the stage of THON 2016 on Sunday morning to urge the dancers on in the final hours of the 46-hour dance marathon.  Franklin's message epitomized what THON's mission has been since it started in 1977.

"This is special. What you guys do is what Penn State is ultimately all about," said Coach Franklin.

Take a look at his full remarks.

James Franklin at THON 2016 Photo Gallery



4:14 p.m. - THON 2016 Raises $9.7 Million
For the second-straight year, THON's fundraising efforts raised more than $9.7 million. The grand total for THON in 2016 was  $9,770,332.32 for fight against pediatric cancer.  Congratulations to everyone involved in THON 2016.  Here is a look at the reveal from Rec Hall prior to Penn State wrestling's bout against Oklahoma State. The Nittany Lion faithful in Rec Hall let out a big cheer as the total was unveiled.

IMG_9094.JPG


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

VIDEO: THON 2016 Pep Rally - Football

| No Comments | No TrackBacks
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - Before a packed house in the Bryce Jordan Center on Saturday night, the Nittany Lion football team claimed top honors in the annual THON dance competition featuring Penn State teams. The Lions earned a victory in the men's side of the action before ousting the women's soccer squad in a dance-off. Take a look at the team's winning dance.

VIDEO: Nittany Lions Host 2016 THON Explorers Event

| No Comments | No TrackBacks

Football THON Explorers Event

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - Approximately 40 members of the Nittany Lion football team welcomed approximately 30 THON Four Diamonds children and their families to a special event inside the Lasch Football Building on Saturday afternoon as part of the THON Explorers program.

The THON event in Lasch is circled on the calendar for the Nittany Lions every year. The THON families gathered inside the home of Penn State football to take photos, get autographs, participate in athletic stations, tour the facility, eat ice cream from the Penn State Creamery and take a group photo.

The Nittany Lions formed a high-five tunnel for the families upon entry into the building before the student-athletes took the families around the football facility. Take a look at the THON Explorers event at the Lasch Football Complex on Saturday.


FB_THON16_1.jpgFB_THON16_2.jpg


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

 

VIDEO: Matt Limegrover 1-on-1 Interview

| No Comments | No TrackBacks

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - With more than 25 years of collegiate coaching experience, Matt Limegrover became Penn State's offensive line coach on Jan. 13.

Limegrover spent the last five seasons at Minnesota working as the offensive coordinator and offensive line coach and was the assistant head coach during the past two seasons. In the midst of the final push leading up to signing day, Limegrover hit the ground running and spent the first two and half weeks on the job recruiting with the rest of the coaching staff to help secure Penn State's third consecutive group of signees ranked in the nation's top 25.

A Pittsburgh native, Limegrover is thrilled to be closer to home as he gets set for his first spring on the field with the Nittany Lions. GoPSUsports.com spent time with the offensive line coach in a one-on-one introductory interview. Take a look.





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

Nittany Lions with Super Bowl Rings (2/7/16)

| No Comments | No TrackBacks

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - Former Penn State standout Jordan Norwood capped off a playoff run with the Denver Broncos by winning Super Bowl 50 in Levi's Stadium on Sunday.

Norwood tallied a Super Bowl-record 61-yard punt return to set up a Denver field goal in the 24-10 win over the Carolina Panthers.

Former Penn State players have been a part of Super Bowl winning teams in 35 of the 50 NFL Championship games.  In all, 38 different former Nittany Lions account for 55 rings.  Take a look at the complete list.


Former Penn State Players with Super Bowl Rings
11673996.jpegJack Ham (4)
Franco Harris (4)
Matt Millen (4)
Pete Kugler (3)
Chris Bahr (2)
Matt Bahr (2)
Bruce Bannon (2)
Dave Robinson (2)
Kareem McKenzie (2)
Rich Milot (2)
Jay Alford
Ralph Baker
Brad Benson
Andre Collins
Sam Gash
Jeff Hartings
Mike Hartenstine
Kim Herring
Jordan Hill
Tim Johnson
Joe Jurevicious
Jimmy Kennedy
Larry Kubin
Justin Kurpeikis
Ted Kwalick
Shawn Mayer
Sean McHugh
Bob Mrosko
Jordan Norwood
Scott Paxson
Andrew Quarless
Tom Rafferty
Glenn Ressler
Marco Rivera
Michael Robinson
Jim Romano
Dave Rowe
Matt Suhey

55 rings among 38 players


Former Penn State Players on Super Bowl Winning Teams (By Year)
1967
- Dave Robinson (Green Bay)
1968 - Dave Robinson (Green Bay)
1969 - Ralph Baker (New York Jets)
1971 - Glenn Ressler (Baltimore Colts)
1973 - Bruce Bannon (Miami Dolphins)
1974 - Bruce Bannon (Miami Dolphins)
1975 - Jack Ham & Franco Harris (Pittsburgh Steelers)
1976 - Jack Ham & Franco Harris (Pittsburgh Steelers)
1977 - Dave Rowe & Ted Kwalick (Oakland Raiders)
1978 - Tom Rafferty (Dallas Cowboys)
1979 - Jack Ham & Franco Harris (Pittsburgh Steelers)
1980 - Matt Bahr, Jack Ham & Franco Harris (Pittsburgh Steelers)
1981 - Chris Bahr & Matt Millen (Oakland Raiders)
1982 - Pete Kugler (San Francisco 49ers)
1983 - Larry Kubin & Rich Milot (Washington Redskins)
1984 - Chris Bahr, Matt Millen & Jim Romano (Los Angeles Raiders)
1986 - Mike Hartstine & Matt Suhey (Chicago Bears)
1987 - Brad Benson (New York Giants)
1988 - Rich Milot (Washington Redskins)
1989 - Pete Kugler (San Francisco 49ers)
1990 - Pete Kugler & Matt Millen (San Francisco 49ers)
1991 - Matt Bahr & Bob Mrosko (New York Giants)
1992 - Andre Collins, Tim Johnson & Matt Millen (Washington Redskins)
1997 - Marco Rivera (Green Bay Packers)
2001 - Sam Gash & Kim Herring (Baltimore Ravens)
2003 - Joe Jurevicious (Tampa Bay Buccaneers)
2004 - Shawn Mayer (New England Patriots)
2005 - Justin Kurpeikis (New England Patriots)
2006 - Jeff Hartings (Pittsburgh Steelers)
2008 - Jay Alford & Kareem McKenzie (New York Giants)
2009 - Sean McHugh & Scott Paxson (Pittsburgh Steelers)
2011 - Andrew Quarless (Green Bay Packers)
2012 - Jimmy Kennedy & Kareem McKenzie (New York Giants)
2014 - Jordan Hill & Michael Robinson (Seattle Seahawks)
2016 - Jordan Norwood (Denver Broncos)


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

Inside The Numbers: The Last Three Football Signing Classes

| No Comments | No TrackBacks

11665406.jpeg
2016 Signing Day Central


UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - For the third-straight February, head coach James Franklin and the football staff have assembled a signing class ranked in the nation's top 25 by all four national recruiting outlets.

Ranked as high as 18th by ESPN, the 2016 class features 20 signees, including 12 future Nittany Lion student-athletes tabbed as either four or five-star prospects. The signing class of 2016 continues a movement of Penn State adding a host of talent and depth to its roster.

"We really want [recruiting] to be about relationships and about the things that we think it should be about, which is getting a world class education and surrounding yourself with like-minded individuals that want to go on and be really successful," said Franklin.

Of the 20 signees slated to be on the roster in August, 16 of them hail from within a 350-mile radius of the University Park campus. The trend of recruiting success within the footprint around Happy Valley has been a common thread throughout Coach Franklin's time in Happy Valley.

Since Franklin arrived in January 2014, the Nittany Lions have signed 70 prospects during the last three recruiting cycles. That figure includes 25 in 2014, 25 in 2015 and 20 in 2016. The 70 players signed have come from 17 states and Canada. Forty-three of the 70 signed players are from 350 miles or less from State College.

Sixty-one players are from the Mid-Atlantic, Northeast and Midwest, with seven players from the Deep South, one from California and one from Ontario. The states represented in the last three recruiting classes are as follows: Pennsylvania (19), Maryland (10), New Jersey (10), Virginia (6), Georgia (4), Ohio (4), Alabama (2), Delaware (2), Illinois (2), Massachusetts (2), North Carolina (2), California (1), Connecticut (1), Florida (1), Indiana (1), New York (1), Wisconsin (1) and Ontario (1)

"I would make the argument that every year that we want to obviously do a great job of recruiting the state of Pennsylvania," said Franklin. "That's very, very important to us, and the region."

In addition to the vast list of signees from the region, the Nittany Lion coaching staff has signed 26 players tabbed as either four or five-star prospects during the last three recruiting classes. In the two years prior to 2014, Penn State signed just six.


Penn State continues winter workouts leading up to the start of spring practice in mid-March and the annual Blue-White Game, which is slated for April 16 in Beaver Stadium.



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

Franklin, Nittany Lions Announce 2016 Signing Class

| No Comments | No TrackBacks


Signing Day Central - Complete Bios, Photos, Highlights & More

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - Head coach James Franklin and the Penn State staff celebrated the signing of a third-straight top-25 recruiting class with the formal announcement of 20 signees for 2016 inside the Lasch Football Building on Wednesday.

"You really want this process to be about relationships and about the things that we think it should be about, which is getting a world class education and surrounding yourself with like-minded individuals that want to go on and be really, really successful," said Franklin. "So it's been fun. It's been crazy and looking forward to getting these guys on campus so we can continue to build on the foundation that their parents have laid and help these guys mature and leave here as educated men and prepared for life."

Franklin walked into the Lasch Building just after 6 a.m. ready for the signing day festivities to begin.  The entire football staff congregated inside the building before 6:30 a.m. with an eye on the fax machine just outside the door Franklin's second-story office.

The first signed letter of intent arrived just after 7 a.m., with offensive lineman Will Fries taking the honor of sending the first letter of intent in to Penn State on Signing Day. Defensive lineman Shane Simmons followed quickly after.

Signing day emcee Jevin Stone (Penn State Football video coordinator) emerged from behind a blue curtain, walked to a podium in the Penn State war room and introduced the signing of Simmons to a rousing cheer from approximately 70 staff members and supporters.

Simmons' biography magnet was placed on the Penn State Signing Day "Big Board" at 7:13 a.m., with Fries and linebacker Cameron Brown and defensive lineman Antonio Shelton following to begin the celebration on an exciting day for Nittany Lion football.

As the 16 letters of intent were approved on Wednesday, each signee had his own announcement.  Additionally, the four early enrollees who are already on campus were part of the announcement ceremony. The announcements included the signees and their families, who called in via FaceTime and were then projected on big screens inside the war room to watch the festivities.

Representatives from across campus and the football staff participated in the announcement process on Wednesday morning. The list included former Nittany Lion greats Matt McGloin and Wally Richardson, coaches Rob Cooper (baseball), Guy Gadowsky (men's hockey), Erica Walsh (women's soccer), Deputy Athletic Director Phil Esten, Senior Associate Athletic Director Rick Kaluza, the Blue Band, cheerleaders, Nittanyville and THON representatives.

Franklin and the staff could not have been prouder to make the announcement of all 20 signees in another strong recruiting class tabbed as the third-best in the Big Ten.

The 2016 class features 12 signees ranked as a five-star or four-star prospect by at least one of the four major recruiting outlets. The class includes two five-star prospects - offensive lineman Michal Menet and running back Miles Sanders - for the first time since 2006 (AJ Wallace and Maurice Evans). During the last two recruiting classes, Penn State has signed 21 prospects tabbed as either four or five-star signees. In the three years prior to 2014, Penn State signed a total of 11.

"We recruit every single one of these guys with the mentality they're going to come in and play and impact the roster and play as freshmen," said Franklin. "The guys that aren't ready, we'll have those conversations with them. It has to do with them. It has to do with our depth. It has to do with their physical maturity, their emotional maturity, and their ability to pick up the playbooks on offense, defense and special teams."

There are 10 defensive players, eight offensive players and two specialists in the class. The positional breakdown includes one quarterback, one running back, one wide receiver, four offensive linemen and one tight end on offense. On defense, the class includes seven defensive linemen, one linebacker and two defensive backs. Punter Blake Gillikin and kicker Alex Barbir comprise the specialists.

The class includes 16 signees from within a 350-mile radius of State College. There are eight states represented in the class, including five signees from Pennsylvania and Maryland, three from Ohio, two from Georgia and one from Illinois, Massachusetts, New Jersey, New York and Virginia. According to Rivals, the Penn State class featured three out of the top six prospects out of Pennsylvania, including the top-ranked prospect in Sanders.

"I would make the argument that every year that we want to obviously do a great job of recruiting the state of Pennsylvania," said Franklin. "That's very, very important to us, and the region."

The football staff put in a tremendous amount of effort to secure the class, seemingly since National Signing Day in February of 2015. Following a few days off this weekend, recruiting will continue almost immediately for the 2017 recruiting class. For now, though, the Nittany Lions will celebrate the addition of 20 new members of the football family.

Spring practice begins in mid-March, and
the Blue-White Game is 73 days away (April 16).


signingday_blog 1.jpg
Follow GoPSUsports.com's Tony Mancuso on Twitter @GoPSUTony

A Group Defined by Loyalty to Penn State Football

| No Comments | No TrackBacks

11590609.jpegUNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - Alongside its predecessors in 2012, 2013 and 2014, the 2015 football senior class will go down as a group of individuals who deserve a special place in Penn State's illustrious history.

It's fitting that the group is a smaller in numbers. Under the circumstances, the size of the class enabled the seniors to forge a tight-knit connection with one another through some of the program's most challenging days. The 2015 seniors have seemingly been through everything, but their commitment never once wavered, and the special bond they have with one another will never be broken.

In July of 2012, this group, arguably more than any other, had a distinct opportunity to leave the challenges following the NCAA sanctions announcement. The players in this group of seniors could have walked out the door and played several full seasons anywhere else in America.

Anyone in the class could have left without any repercussions to attend a school that could compete for a conference title, post-season berth or a national championship.

The group now also includes the likes of juniors Christian Hackenberg and Austin Johnson, who both announced they are headed for the NFL Draft following Saturday's TaxSlayer Bowl. Like the seniors, Hackenberg and Johnson could have also walked away from a commitment to the Blue and White without any penalty.

At the time, the vast majority of the student-athletes program faced open recruitment by schools across the country.

No student-athlete signed up for the hardships and scrutiny bestowed upon them starting in November 2011 and magnified the following July, so who could have blamed anyone had they elected to transfer.

Some of their teammates and fellow commits did just that.

But knowing the road would be a challenge unlike any other student-athletes had ever faced, this small collection of men refused to leave the family behind.

A brotherhood had been formed inside the locker room and in their residences, and this resilient group refused to step away.

The players knew they couldn't play in a bowl game. They knew they couldn't compete for a national championship. They knew the deck was almost insurmountably stacked against them. They knew it would be extremely difficult to compete on a level playing field.

They didn't care.

They didn't care about anything other than putting on the blue and white jersey each Saturday in the fall alongside their friends and in front of a family of Penn State supporters.

For this group of players, the sanctions, and the hardships brought by them, pulled the group closer together. The unique situation reaffirmed their passion for the place they had committed to.

The Penn State community embraced the players with open arms, and this group of players cannot say thank you enough for the support they have received.

It's hard to envision where Penn State Football would be without the loyalty of this senior class or guys like Hackenberg and Johnson.

For the past three, and in some cases four years, this group's actions have spoken louder than any words. These student-athletes played for one another. They played for their families. They played for the players who wore the blue and white before them. They played for Penn State.

"I came here to get a college degree from one of the best schools in America," said defensive tackle Anthony Zettel. "I'm going to accomplish that. And I've always just wanted to give everything I had for this football program, not just on the football field but in the community. This opportunity is something no one will ever take away from us. It's something I will never forget. And I am forever grateful."

Where do you even begin to start when you think about what it must have been like to walk in the shoes of guys like Kyle Carter, Angelo Mangiro, Carl Nassib or Anthony Zettel. Despite the odds of competing in major college football with a roster of limited scholarships, the group's mindset never changed.

"It would have been easy to let things get to you, but that's not who we are. We had a job to do, and we did it because we love being a part of this family," Zettel said.

This group's college experience has been unique to say the least, which is why the group deserves the utmost respect from any supporter of the program or intercollegiate athletics. They worked hard for one another in the toughest of circumstances because that is the only thing they knew how to do.

"Back in 2012, when we ran out of that tunnel for the first time with our names on the back of our jerseys, we were showing the world that we could have jumped ship, but we didn't," said offensive lineman Angelo Mangiro. "We stayed. We wanted to be here. And we did it because we love Penn State."

It was clear three years ago that the current seniors weren't playing for accolades or a bowl game. The quest for success was far bigger than wins and losses on the field. The group saw the situation not as a deterrent, but as an opportunity to grow together.

"We've been battle tested since day one," said Mangiro. "It's always been a tight-knit group because we've been through so much adversity together. Coming down the stretch, you just think about how this opportunity shaped us as men. We will cherish every moment we have together."

That doesn't mean the 2015 seniors weren't more deserving of a chance at a post-season game, though. When the NCAA lifted the ban on post-season play on Sept. 8, 2014, head coach James Franklin called every member of the team who was on the roster in July of 2012 to the front of the meeting room to stand before the rest of the team.

Franklin and the underclassmen gave the collection of players standing in the front of the room a rousing, standing ovation and pleaded with the young players in the room to play the rest of the 2014 season for the men who had been through never ending adversity, especially the seniors.


Following a thrilling overtime game at the Pinstripe Bowl, these Nittany Lions will go down in history as key figures in the program's first bowl victory following the sanctions.

"It's not a big group, in terms of numbers, but it is a big group in terms of impact," said Franklin. "This is a group of guys who have had a tremendous influence on our team and the community. They've been through a lot. They've stuck together. They stuck by Penn State. And we owe them a lot of gratitude."

Penn State's 2015 season again extended beyond the 12th regular season game. The extra practices and buildup to the TaxSlayer Bowl will ultimately pay huge dividends for the future of the program. But more importantly, the 2015 seniors, Hackenberg and Johnson all had an opportunity to spend an extra month together with the football family.

Including interim coaches, the seniors played for five different head coaches in their time with the program. But their commitment and drive to be the best never wavered.

For Hackenberg, he had his pick of schools out of high school. He chose Penn State because he wanted to be in Happy Valley. He didn't care about the sanctions. When he committed to the program and University, Hackenberg did so with the passion and enthusiasm that helped become glue to keep Penn State Football relevant in its toughest hours.

"I don't know if you can count on one hand how many other programs would have been able to survive what we survived," Hackenberg said. "Just to be a part of that is really humbling. I'm proud to be a part of that group of guys."

When this group arrived at Penn State, not one of them could have predicted what type of journey they were about to embark on. The hurdles faced made the group stronger men. The senior class never lost sight of the bigger picture because it battled for so much more than individual accolades. And the group would do all of it again for the University and football program they so dearly love.

"You just get chills every time you put the helmet on," defensive end Carl Nassib said. "We are all just so lucky to have been able to do that for Penn State. This has meant the world to every one of us."

The Nittany Lions came up just short of sending this group out with a victory the TaxSlayer Bowl on Saturday. To a man, it was emotional for each guy as he walked off the field in Jacksonville for the final time. But no one win or loss will define the legacies of these men.

Instrumental in helping lay the foundation for future success, the group's place in Penn State history will be identified with an incredible bond to a University when it needed it most.

 

GoPSUsports

Instagram