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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

VIDEO: 2016 Lift For Life Player Interviews

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

Video: Player Interviews | Photo Gallery

By Mark Brumbaugh

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

BLOG: Football Brings Smiles at Children's Hospital

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By Mark Brumbaugh,

HERSHEY, Pa. - When a football player walks through a door, chances are he will be the strongest and toughest person in the room. But that was not the case on this Wednesday afternoon in July.

The Penn State football team was reminded that many children are facing opponents and challenges far tougher than any posed on the gridiron, as approximately 100 members of the team and head coach James Franklin visited with several of the young patients at the Penn State Hershey Children's Hospital.

"I think we all have times in our life where you think you have it tough," said Franklin. "[Our student-athletes] just got done with classes and workouts and may think that they have it tough ... and there is always someone out there that has more challenges than you. So being able to come to the Children's Hospital it hits home for all of us."

Three bus loads made the two-hour trek across central Pennsylvania for a third consecutive year. After a rousing welcome, the Lions were able to bring smiles to the faces of many young fans as they spread out in smaller groups throughout the hospital.

"Honestly, [the trip] makes my year," said senior defensive lineman Evan Schwan. "I always say, this trip and the Athlete Hour we have at THON are my favorite times of the year. Just seeing the smiles that we can put on these kids faces, even if it just makes them happy for a little bit, because they are going through so much stuff."

Several groups of players visited with patients in their rooms in various sections of the hospital. Other groups spent time engaging with patients in the Tree House Cafe where they signed autographs, played games and helped with arts and crafts projects.

"Every time come, we come here to try to make a difference and make an impact," said Franklin. "Even if we just put one smile on one young person's face, it was worth the trip."

Penn State Hershey Children's Hospital is a 263,000-square-foot, five-story facility. The nearly $207 million facility was built adjacent to Penn State Milton S. Hershey Medical Center's main entrance.

"The amazing thing though, like I mentioned last year, is we actually get more out of it than we give."

VIDEO: Nittany Lions Deliver 2016 Posters

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UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - The Nittany Lion football team spent Tuesday interacting with fans around State College distributing the 2016 poster. The team boarded four Blue Buses and spread out in different locations in State College and on the University Park campus.

New this year, the Nittany Lion Club and Penn State Alumni Association chapters hosted free Poster Pick Up Parties in Pittsburgh, Philadelphia and Harrisburg. Each city will have limited edition posters specific to that area.

Beginning Wednesday, June 22, posters will be available in State College at the Penn State All Sports Museum, Penn State Bookstore, Penn State Ticket Offices (BJC and Beaver Stadium) and the State College Blaise Alexander Family Dealerships (Blaise Alexander Chrysler Dodge Jeep Ram and Blaise Alexander Hyundai Mazda). Additionally, the 2016 Penn State Football poster will be available at Weis Markets locations in Camp Hill (1195 Lowther Road) and Harrisburg (5125 Jonestown Road).

Take a look at media remarks from running back Saquon Barkley, linebacker Jake Cooper, wide receiver Chris Godwin during the poster distribution in State College.

Follow's Tony Mancuso on Twitter @GoPSUTony

VIDEO: Athletes Volunteer at 2016 Special Olympics Pennsylvania Summer Games

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UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - More than 2,000 athletes from across Pennsylvania are on Penn State's campus this weekend to participate in the 2016 Special Olympics Summer Games.

The Opening Ceremonies took place on Thursday inside Pegula Ice Arena, kicking off a weekend of competition. Student-athletes from a host of Penn State teams will volunteer at the Summer Games over the weekend.

Members of eight Penn State teams greeted the Olympians as they entered Pegula Ice Arena on Thursday evening, taking photos and cheering them on in anticipation of the Summer Games.

Take a look through some photos and video of Penn State athletes volunteering at the Summer Games.

Photo Gallery: Special Olympics Opening Ceremony

Follow's Tony Mancuso on Twitter @GoPSUTony

Levi Brown Still Maximizing Opportunity by Earning Third Degree

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1231422.jpgUNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - When Levi Brown began looking at colleges as a high school student-athlete at Granby High School in Norfolk, Va., he had a couple things in his mind.

Firstly, Brown knew that no one in his family had ever obtained a college degree.

Secondly, he wanted to play on the defensive line in college.

Looking for a combination of academics and athletics, Brown leaned on his high school coach, Dave Hudak, for advice. It turns out that Hudak was fan of the way Penn State and coach Joe Paterno offered student-athletes elite academics and football at the highest level.

11916467.jpeg"It was a place where academic integrity and football could be put into one," Brown said. "Growing up in a house where I was taught that sports were a good thing to have, but education was more important than that. I felt like this was a place I needed to be. The stars aligned and everything worked out."

Following the guidance of his parents and coach, Brown selected Penn State as the place he wanted to attend. After all, it was one of just three programs that recruited Brown as a defensive player.

When he walked on campus as a student, Brown knew he had the opportunity of a lifetime and sought out to maximize what he had been given. That mindset began in 2002 when he started college. Nearly 14 years later, and Brown is still maximizing the Penn State experience.

After earning two undergraduate degrees and a successful career in the National Football League, Brown will graduate with a master's degree this week.

"My parents wished they had the opportunity to get a college degree and a chance to make more income and have a better life than what they grew up in," said Brown. "They instilled that into my sister (Brionna) and I. They urged us to go get an education and make our lives as good as they can be."

Knowing his football career could end at any moment, Brown worked tirelessly to achieve whatever was necessary to have a successful life after his playing days ended. From the moment he arrived, Brown still recalls words of wisdom Coach Paterno instilled in him.

"Coach Paterno reinforced the fact that football is here in the present, but it's just a game," said Brown. "There are more important things in life, and you need to be contributing member in society. Education is one way to do that. Having people like my family and Coach Paterno in my corner really pushed me to be a better person so that I could do these things in my life."

Things didn't exactly come easy for Brown in his first year at Penn State. Staring at becoming academically ineligible to compete on the football field, Brown turned to Todd Kulka and the academic support staff as mentors to help shape the rest of his time in the program. It was the first time in his life he'd been away from home, and the transition into college life was entirely new for the North Carolina native.

"It came to down to me bearing down and focusing on what I needed to do," said Brown. "If you wanted to be serious about getting a degree, you needed to focus. Having the academic staff in my corner really helped me turn things around that first year. And I just grew from there."

On the field, Brown overcame the hurdle of switching positions, something he wasn't too keen on at the time. But Coach Paterno had a vision for Brown as an offensive lineman. He knew that Brown could be successful, and in hindsight, it's safe to say that Brown can't really argue with the decision.

After redshirting in 2002, Brown started 45 of his 48 career games on the offensive line, earning second-team All-American and All-Big Ten honors in back-to-back seasons (2005 and 2006). Brown was instrumental in helping Penn State win the 2005 Big Ten Championship and the 2006 Orange Bowl, earning a 20-5 record his last two seasons.

FB Graduation - Dec13B6D8.jpgAfter three and a half years, Brown graduated with a degree in labor and industrial relations in December 2005. Rather than take the easy way out and have a light class load as a senior, he sought to finish a second degree.

"When I went college, I just felt like, 'look, I'm here and I need to make the most of this opportunity,'" said Brown. "I'm getting a free education and you get to play a sport that I loved. I tried to make the most of my opportunities."

In December 2006, Brown earned his second undergraduate degree in psychology. He then shifted attention to a master's degree.

"I told myself, if I'm going to be here, I'm not going to just take a golf course just to be eligible," said Brown. "I wanted to make the most of it, and see what I could do with the opportunity. It worked out."

The standout left tackle got a jumpstart in the master's program for human resources and employment relations because he had some room for a couple course spots to fill. A full course load in a master's program leads to completion in two years.

However, that third degree took a backseat when Brown was selected by the Arizona Cardinals as the fifth overall pick in the 2007 NFL Draft, which is the highest Penn State selection during the past 15 years. In seven NFL seasons (six with Arizona and one in Pittsburgh), Brown played in 81 career games, which included 79 starts at tackle.

Despite making a living in the pinnacle of the sport he loved, Brown always had the master's degree on his mind.

Through the National Football League's tuition reimbursement program, Brown decided to finish what he had started in 2007. So in 2011, he began taking one master's course via Penn State's World Campus during each offseason. Brown worked as an intern at a law firm during the process, and he recently finished the research portion of the program by assisting a company with its human resource practices.

"With the NFL reimbursing it for me, there was no reason not to take advantage," said Brown. "At any time during my career, I could have gotten injured and cause my career to be cut short and not be able to make the money I was able to make. I needed to have something to fall back on if things didn't go the way I planned. That's what I did, and here I am ready to finish the masters program."

3903784.jpegHaving been part of a team nearly his whole life, Brown has aspirations of continuing to help lead individuals in the workforce by getting a foot in the door to do human resources work with a company.

Brown has been married to his wife, Lynette, since 2009. The two met at Penn State. Currently in the process of moving from Chandler, Ariz., to Austin, Texas, the Browns have three children, twin daughters, age 3, and a seven-month-old daughter.

When he opted to attend Penn State, Brown told himself that he was not going to pass up an opportunity to succeed. As the first member of his family to earn a degree, Brown will now have three diplomas from a world-renowned educational institution.

Penn State and football opened the door, but it was Brown's drive and initiative that fueled a journey maximized to its fullest.

"If you are going to start something, you need to finish it," said Brown.

Follow's Tony Mancuso on Twitter @GoPSUTony

2016 NFL Draft Roundup

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UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - For the 26th time, at least five Nittany Lion football products were selected in the NFL Draft.

Austin Johnson, Christian Hackenberg, Carl Nassib, Anthony Zettel and Jordan Lucas were each selected as part of the 2016 NFL Draft, which was held in Chicago over the weekend. In total, there have now been 343 total selections for Penn State in the NFL Draft.

Take a look at highlights and more from the busy weekend with Penn State and the NFL Draft.

Round 2 (Pick 43) - Austin Johnson - Tennessee Titans

Round 2 (Pick 51) - Christian Hackenberg - New York Jets

Round 3 (Pick 65) - Carl Nassib - Cleveland Browns

Round 6 (Pick 202) - Anthony Zettel - Detroit Lions

Round 6 (Pick 204) - Jordan Lucas - Miami Dolphins

Follow's Tony Mancuso on Twitter @GoPSUTony

Nittany Lions Wrap Up Spring with Eye on Regular Season

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VIDEO: James Franklin Postgame Interview | VIDEO: Postgame Player Interviews

Spring Practice Central

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - Ideal weather conditions and 65,000 fans greeted the Nittany Lions inside Beaver Stadium during the final day of spring practice for the 2016 season on Saturday afternoon.

After a practice period marked by superb progress and installation, the Nittany Lions will head into the final few weeks of the spring academic semester and summer with a confidence. The Blue topped the White, 37-0, during a productive gameday for the Lions.

"I thought we had 15 really good practices," said head coach James Franklin. "I thought we really improved dramatically from the start of the spring to the end. Today, having 65,000 fans here was unbelievable. Overall, we had a great spring."

Penn State practiced 15 times between March 18 and April 16 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 sets it apart, and Saturday was no different. From the new-look autograph session held at stadium gates during the morning to the spring game festivities, the Nittany Lions truly embraced the opportunity to spend a day with so many loyal supporters of the program.

"Blue-White Weekend is an awesome time every year to spend time with your family and see so many fans supporting us," said offensive tackle Andrew Nelson. "We couldn't be anymore thankful for our fans and how they came out to be in Beaver Stadium for the spring game."

Offensively, the Nittany Lions took a big leap forward from the start of spring ball. Installing a new offensive scheme in a span of 15 spring practices is no small task, but the Lions worked through the paces of the process with great efficiency. Tempo was the key throughout spring drills, and the Lions are primed to pick up right where they left off on Saturday when training camp begins in August.

"I think the offense did a really good job picking up the offense this spring," said quarterback Trace McSorley. "We kept getting better every day. We came out and had a really good day in front of the fans. I thought we moved the ball well most of the day. We have some things to clean up, but we are really happy with how the day and spring went."

McSorley and Tommy Stevens steered the offense with great efficiency during spring practice. The young Nittany Lions will continue to grow with work during the summer months, but Coach Franklin is pleased with the progress made during the past month on the field and how they performed on Saturday afternoon.

"I thought the two quarterbacks did a really good job of running the offense," said Franklin. "Tommy Stevens, even though he was working with the white team against the blue defense, he really did some nice things and then late in the game we were able to get him with the blue offense and he really did a nice job. I thought Trace (McSorley) looked poised, looked confident, looked under control."

On defense, the Lions gained valuable experience at a number of spots during the first spring under coordinator Brent Pry. The Nittany Lions are replacing two big pieces at defensive tackle, but the unit made a lot of big plays this spring and got its hands on a number of balls.

"I really like the way the defense has grown," said Franklin. "We made a bunch of plays and we didn't have Nyeem Wartman-White and Brandon Bell, two of our better players. We lost some great players on the defensive line that we are going to have to replace. I'm really pleased at defensive end and our secondary. We've got some very nice depth."

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 lot to build upon before fall camp begins in early August.

Saturday's spring game was the final time the fans will see the team before action commences in Beaver Stadium against Kent State on Sept. 3. The window of opportunity for growth between now and the opener is a big one for the Nittany Lions. With the foundation laid this spring, the Lions are well on their way to a strong start for 2016.

"We improved on offense, defense and special teams this spring, but where we really took a step forward is that team camaraderie," said Nelson. "We are looking forward to growing more over the summer after a very good spring."

Follow's Tony Mancuso on Twitter @GoPSUTony

VIDEO: 2016 Blue-White James Franklin Postgame Interview

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UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - Head coach James Franklin talks with following the Blue-White Game to wrap up a productive spring practice period.

Follow's Tony Mancuso on Twitter @GoPSUTony