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Leading by Example

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UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - Penn State wide receiver Juwan Johnson can just about always be found on the field post-practice surrounded by seniors DaeSean Hamilton and Mike Gesicki.

It's a roughly two-year routine, originally started around spring ball and something Gesicki joked about earlier this week, wondering who Johnson might select to join him next year. It begins with pass-catching but each session ends with 20 contested catches and wet ball drills.

In an emotional start to a damp and chilly evening at Beaver Stadium Saturday, Penn State honored its 23 seniors and their families pregame.

Nittany Lions did not disappoint on the special day, sending the 2017 seniors out with an emphatic 56-44 win against Nebraska for a second consecutive undefeated season at home, a feat that hadn't been accomplished in more than 30 years.

Penn State's offense was spectacular to start, as running back Saquon Barkley broke free for a 65-yard touchdown to put Penn State out to an early lead. As the Huskers capitalized on special teams miscues to pull ahead, it was the post-practice crew who helped ignite the offense.

Following a clutch 7-yard third- down catch from Hamilton to extend the drive, quarterback Trace McSorley found Johnson for a career-high tying 43-yard catch and run, eventually leading to a 1-yard Barkley touchdown run. Penn State piled on with four consecutive scoring drives, including a 9-yard Gesicki touchdown grab to send Penn State surge ahead 42-10 by halftime.

Johnson's catch was just the first of five, in which he accounted for a career-high 105 yards to lead the team. Reflecting on his first career 100-yard receiving game postgame though, he mentioned increased confidence of course, but gave credit elsewhere.

"Honestly it's just self-confidence and having teammates around you like DaeSean [Hamilton] and Mike [Gesicki], just always working wet balls after practice for 30 minutes," Johnson said.  "Just getting out there and working on the things you need to work on. For me, self-confidence and just attacking it."

While they couldn't be more different as individuals off the field, the stories of Hamilton and Gesicki and their Penn State careers on the field, in many ways, couldn't be more similar.

As Gesicki pointed out postgame though, their success hasn't simply come by way of coincidence. Through the ups and downs, good times and bad, they never waived in their dedication, choosing to lean on their work ethic to find success.

Hamilton, who recently became Penn State's all-time leader in receptions was of course alongside Gesicki Saturday as he broke Ted Kwalick's record (1,343; 1966-68) for receiving yards by a tight end. Gesicki, who caught four passes for 47 yards and two touchdowns against the Huskers, wrapped up his final game on the field at Beaver Stadium with 1,384 career receiving yards, and there's still plenty of football to be played this year.

It's through those post-practice sessions though, that Johnson saw the paths of Gesicki and Hamilton taking shape.

"I found out what their character is like, and they're funny guys but just how hard they work," Johnson said. "It didn't matter how cold it was or how hot it was, throughout the season they were always out there after practice, willing to catch the ball, willing to get extra work and that's something I'll always carry with me for the rest of my life. Those are guys who I will always call my brothers."

The result for Johnson of course, is burgeoning confidence, something McSorley pointed to postgame. 

"We've seen Juwan have that in-practice confidence, where he can go up there and put his big old paw up there and snag it and bring it down with one hand," McSorley said. "To see him have that in-game confidence where he trusts himself that much in a game. It's awesome to be able to know he has that game confidence in him and everyone else and probably for a guy like DaeSean too who has been a real mentor to him."

For Franklin, the future for Johnson is perhaps as bright as it's ever been.

"I couldn't be more excited about Juwan and his future and that's in every way possible," Franklin said. "The exciting part is, I still think there's a lot more left in the tank for him. I think there's a lot of areas where he can continue to grow and develop and a lot of it is just from a confidence standpoint, but I think he's going to continue to be a problem (for other teams) for the rest of this season and take that into the future as well."

While Johnson hasn't quite decided who will join him on the field post-practice next year, if being great is making those around you better, that's exactly what these seniors have done.

While just a small snapshot featuring two of the 23 who will depart the team this year, it is yet another example of precisely the legacy they'll leave behind.   

"These guys are of the Penn State mold," senior offensive lineman Brendan Mahon said. "They do the right things and they mirror the players that have come before us. That's the kind of kids these younger players are. They work really hard and they're blue collar. That's Penn State, and I think they're going to keep it that way for a long time."

VIDEO: Nebraska Postgame (Players)

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UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - No. 10 Penn State football closed out its regular season home slate with a 56-44 win against Nebraska Saturday at Beaver Stadium on senior day. Check in with several Nittany Lions following the victory.

M. Gesicki, S. Barkley, J. Johnson

J. Cabinda, A. Oruwariye, B. Smith

VIDEO: Nebraska Postgame (James Franklin)

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UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - No. 10 Penn State football closed out its regular season home slate with a 56-44 win against Nebraska Saturday at Beaver Stadium on senior day. Check in with Nittany Lion head coach James Franklin following the victory. 

Beaver Stadium Extra - Nebraska

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UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - Go behind the scenes and inside all things Beaver Stadium on Nebraska gameday with the Nittany Lions. From BTN Tailgate and the Heisman House  to senior day at Beaver Stadium, check in for exclusive interviews and content throughout the entire afternoon. 

The Nissan Heisman House Visits Happy Valley

Senior families join Beaver Stadium Extra 
Mothers of Nittany Lion seniors Brandon Smith and DaeSean Hamilton check in ahead of senior day at Beaver Stadium.

Checking out BTN Tailgate

Catching up with Honorary Captain Tim Shaw 
Former Penn State linebacker, NFL veteran and ALS warrior Tim Shaw was recognized as today's honorary captain. He joins Beaver Stadium Extra to share the experience.

2017 Gameday Live - No. 10 Penn State vs. Nebraska

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UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - No. 10 Penn State football returns to Beaver Stadium for its regular season home finale, hosting Nebraska Saturday at 4 p.m. Amidst a stripe out crowd set to blanket Beaver Stadium in blue and white, for Franklin and staff, Saturday marks a final farewell for 23 defining Nittany Lions. 

Follow along with our live blog and join the conversation for in-game updates and exclusive content.  

Live Blog No. 10 Penn State vs. Nebraska

2017 Gameday - No. 10 Penn State Hosts Nebraska on Senior Day

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RELATED LINKS: Gameday Central I Live Blog I Game Notes I Depth Chart I Tuesday Presser Roundup I Wednesday Practice Report I T. Smith Q&A I Monday Notebook I Program Spotlight: Going for It I Nittany Lions in the NFL - Week 10 I Gameday Promotions and Reminders I Parking Closures

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - No. 10 Penn State football (8-2, 5-2 Big Ten) returns to Beaver Stadium for its regular season home finale, hosting Nebraska (4-6, 3-4 Big Ten) Saturday at 4 p.m.

Amidst a stripe out crowd set to blanket Beaver Stadium in blue and white, for Franklin and staff, Saturday marks a final farewell for 23 defining Nittany Lions. 

"A lot of these guys were either committed to Penn State when I got the job or we brought with, and a lot of these guys played as true freshmen or redshirt freshmen or whatever it may be and have had a significant impact," Franklin said.

There are stories of patience, stories of persistence and adversity among the group. Above all though, it's a senior class responsible for a now impermeable standard set for not only those who return in 2017, but for the legacy of the program.

"You think about their time here, those guys could write a book," Franklin said. "They've seen it all and done it all and experienced the lows and the highs and everything in between. The thing that I'm most proud of, they're going to leave here to go be great fathers and husbands and businessmen and leaders of society."

It's an extraordinary mix of individuals who will leave behind everything from re-printed records to a host of "remember when" moments spanning generations of fans.

Perhaps the real story of the senior class is more than the moments, the Big Ten Championship, the Rose Bowl or any of the many honors and awards. Rather, it's about a group that opted to buy in rather than bail out. 

"We had guys who had four or five different head coaches and then guys coming in just knowing coach Franklin's staff and that's all they knew," senior cornerback Grant Haley said.  "Over the last two years, it seems like coach Franklin's method, there's a method to the madness and everything that he preaches and what he has done over the years, it works. Guys like me, guys like Jason [Cabinda], DaeSean [Hamilton], these upperclassmen really bought into that and being leaders on the team, we reiterate that to the younger guys on the team and it's really made us progress in these last two years, but it's been overall a four-year process."

Come Saturday, the Nittany Lions will take to the field with one final chance to send the senior class out with a victory. It's also fitting of course that the 2017 senior class has just one Big Ten opponent left to defeat, giving Penn State a win against all 14 conference teams across Franklin's tenure.

In a meeting placing a pair of programs among a group of only 10 schools with at least 800 all-time wins, Penn State and Nebraska square off for the first time since 2013.

"I wouldn't have wanted to go through this experience with anyone else," senior defensive tackle Parker Cothren said. "It's kind of sad that it's coming to an end but it's a start of a new era and we're just trying to go out on top in our last game at Beaver Stadium."


What to Watch For - Penn State
1. Running back Saquon Barkley enters Saturday's matchup just 101 yards shy of becoming just the second Nittany Lion in program history with three 1,000-yard rushing seasons. Among several program records he's currently scaling, Barkley also needs just two more career rushing touchdowns to match Lydell Mitchell's nearly 50-year-old record. 

As postseason national awards are narrowing their lists to the semifinalists, Barkley was most recently named a semifinalist for both the Doak Walker Award (nation's premier running back) and the Walter Camp Player of the Year Award this week. In the weekly stats standings, Barkley's also slated second in FBS and first in the conference averaging 184.60 all-purpose yards per game.

2. When asked about areas of improvement headed into the final two games of the season, quarterback Trace McSorley noted a few things the Nittany Lions are working on offensively.

"Our running game is something that we really want to get going, really trying to create more balance for our offense," McSorley said. 

Franklin preceded McSorley with the same mention in his weekly press conference, especially when it comes to balance.

"I don't know if we're ever going to be a team that lines up and runs the ball down your throat for 300 yards, but we don't need to be," Franklin said. "We do need to be able when we get the right look, we need to be able to run the ball consistently and into the right look and into the right situation, and we need to win our one-on-one battles from a protection standpoint in the passing game and in the running game in terms of creating space."

3. Penn State's defense is ranked fourth in the Big Ten and 18th in FBS in total defense, allowing opponents fewer than 14 points on the year, which ranks second in the conference and fourth in FBS. In three of four wins for the Huskers this year, Nebraska has outrushed its opponent, despite being significantly out-gained in a the most recent loss at Nebraska.

What To Watch For - Nebraska
1. Nebraska head coach Mike Riley noted earlier this week that quarterback Tanner Lee is in concussion protocol, but the Nittany Lions aren't counting him out.

 "Lee is probably one of the better quarterbacks that we're going to face," assistant head coach and quarterbacks coach Terry Smith said. "He's a true pocket guy. He stands tall in the pocket, he can deliver every throw. When he's hot, he's as good as anyone in the country. So we have to make sure that we make the pocket not so comfortable for him."

Outside of Lee, Smith noted that Husker quarterback Patrick O'Brien might not have the same experience as Lee, but is still a threat in the pocket with the ability to deliver throws.

"He was 12-for-18 last week which means he's efficient," Smith said. "The difference is, I think he doesn't have the experience of playing as many snaps, which caused him to take a couple extra sacks last week."

2. Nebraska wide receiver JD Spielman has emerged for the Huskers in his redshirt freshman season, currently needing fewer than 70 yards to reach the 800 receiving yards mark this year.  With two 100-yard receiving games on the year, he made nine catches for 141 yards on the road at Minnesota last week, having also set a single-game record with 200 receiving yards against Ohio State. 

Spielman has also been effective for the Huskers on third and fourth down opportunities, with a combined 27 receptions on third and fourth down, tied for first nationally.

3. Franklin noted earlier this week that there's a clear benefit in the familiarity of Nebraska's 3-4 style of defense that the Nittany Lions saw last week against Rutgers.

Among the Nebraska defense, senior linebacker and team captain Chris Weber is leading the team with 82 tackles. With four double-digit tackle outings this year, Weber also leads the team with 8.0 tackles for loss and five pass breakups.

The Final Word -
As Franklin pointed out earlier this week, Nebraska leads the all-time series at 9-7, with wins in all three outings against the Nittany Lions since the Huskers joined the conference in 2011. Outside of the all-time series with Nebraska, the Nittany Lions enter Saturday's matchup with 13 consecutive wins at home, marking its longest home winning streak since a 14-game stretch from 1990-92.

Terry Smith Q&A - Nebraska

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UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - Penn State assistant head coach and cornerbacks coach Terry Smith joined this week's assistant coaches conference call to talk Nittany Lion football during Nebraska week.

Covering everything from senior day to Nittany Lions on the rise, catch up on a few highlights from the teleconference.

Senior Sendoff
For Smith, it's hard to pick a favorite memory when it comes to someone like Grant Haley. Of course there's the signature scoop and score to topple Ohio State, which Smith identified as a program-changing moment for the Nittany Lions.

"He's just played so much football, we've had a lot of great moments and he's just an awesome kid to be around and have coached," Smith said.

On Senior Day ...
As a proud Nittany Lion alum, Smith also has the benefit of knowing what it feels like to rush through the tunnel on to the field for the final time in full uniform.

"Senior night is an emotional night or an emotional day because you've come to the realization that this is the last time you're ever going to put the uniform on in Beaver Stadium," Smith said. 

"You come through that tunnel and it's the last time the crowd is going to cheer you on as a player. There's a lot of, just that surreal-ness of, this is it. A bunch of emotions start to pour through you and then at the end of the day, you still have your job to do. We still have a game to play and victory to chase."

A Bright Future
Smith noted that true freshman Tariq Castro-Fields has only grown into his position for the Nittany Lions. With a knack for finding the ball, speed, awareness and ball skills, Smith is increasingly more confident in his future.

"Tariq's doing really well for us, he's going to have a bright future for us as we graduate two senior corners in Christian [Campbell] and Grant [Haley]," Smith said. "We feel really good about where Tariq is as those two guys depart the program."

Throughout the season, Castro-Fields has continued to grow, giving the staff more confidence with each snap.

"Tariq, he played really well in the Michigan State game and he's had some games where he has played really well and like I said, we just continue to give him a little bit more and more," Smith said. "As he continues to handle it, Tariq's going to be really good for us." 

More Freshman Impact
Smith also spoke highly of true freshman Lamont Wade, comparing his freshman campaign to that of someone like Grant Haley. 

"Lamont has become really, really important to us on special teams," Smith said. "He makes a ton of plays on special teams units and he's played a significant role with us on the defensive end as well. His role is going to continue to grow for us. Lamont is a super smart kid." 

Practice Report: Nebraska Week

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UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - Penn State head coach James Franklin met with members of the media following practice Wednesday evening. Nittany Lions Marcus Allen and DaeSean Hamilton also took time for a pair of post-practice media sessions during Nebraska week.

Check in for a few updates from Penn State's final mid-week media availability before Saturday's home finale.

A Legacy in Terms of Work
For Franklin, there's isn't one particular story that he'll remember Hamilton by, rather pointing out that he'll leave behind a legacy surrounding an impressive work ethic. 

"He's a guy, as much as any guy I've been around in my career, that has maximized his potential through work ethic, through preparation, through attitude," Franklin said." I mean, I think I've told you guys stories, when I was a bachelor living here by myself for nine months and I'd come out at 6 a.m. and he'd be out on the turf running routes by himself or on the JUGS machine or what else." 

Marcus Allen Then and Now
When asked to describe himself looking back at when he was a freshman to where he is now as a senior, Allen was both reflective and appreciative of those who have helped him along the way. 

"Raw talent, a gullible kid, just playing with straight emotion. I didn't really know the game of football." Allen said describing his freshman self. "Senior Marcus, still play with emotion and passion, but really I learned way more about football in general. I got taught the ins and outs of football. Down and distance, formation recognition, checks, calls." 

It Was a Scramble
Franklin also detailed a bit of the hectic process related to tying up a recruiting class having just barely arrived on campus.

"It was a scramble, we were locked up in the Penn Stater," Franklin said. "We lived in the Penn Stater and going through HR and everything. Half of our staff wasn't even allowed to come to Lasch until we cleared all the background checks and all that kind of stuff. Legitimately we were sequestered in the Penn Stater and it was basically me coming over, walking around Lasch Building by myself. But it was a scramble, calling all those kids."

Nebraska Secondary
When asked about the Husker secondary, Hamilton noted that it's probably among the biggest he's faced. 

"A lot of teams in the Big Ten west, their DB's and their whole team is huge," Hamilton said. "We approach them the same way, we are aware of who our matchup are and things like that. We know they are a pretty skilled group, they've been playing together for I'm pretty sure a long time and they're real disciplined as well so that's the main thing we're focusing on.

Program Spotlight: Going For It

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UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - If Andrea Smith had a dollar for every time someone asked her how her husband could transform into a fierce and ferocious competitor on Saturday's in the fall, she'd likely be rich.

Her husband of course, is 6-foot, fifth-year senior linebacker Brandon Smith.

"We've been together for seven years and I've honestly never seen him actually angry," Andrea said. "For example, his barber, they are all so shocked when he tells them that he plays football because he seems like the kindest, most gentle person. I guess people have a hard time imagining that he isn't like that on the football field, which is funny."

As Winfield, Pennsylvania natives, both Brandon and Andrea grew up fewer than 80 miles from University Park. A standout linebacker at Lewisburg High School, Brandon always had his mind set on Penn State.

"I always dreamed of coming here and I never really thought that would happen," Brandon said.

While accumulating college football offers, Smith was eventually recruited as a preferred walk-on at Penn State, which made his decision to turn down Ivy League scholarship opportunities, an easy one in pursuit of his lifelong dream.

"I always knew he wanted to go to Penn State," Andrea said. "When he was trying to decide, I think everyone in his family knew that was where he wanted to go. When he told me, I wasn't super shocked, but I guess I was more excited because you realize this is a dream, and he had the opportunity to pursue that."

While deliberating, Brandon knew that choosing Penn State wouldn't be the easiest path, but through personal prayer he found there was simply something about the challenge that was drawing him to Happy Valley. 

"I think ultimately I just looked at it and I didn't want to look back and say that I didn't try it or think to myself, could I have done that or not," Brandon said. "Instead, I decided to go for it and find out." 

In what will soon the end of a five-year career at Penn State, there's a lot he has accomplished along the way, most recently being named to the Allstate AFCA (American Football Coaches Association) Good Works Team.

"I don't think I would have been challenged the same way football-wise at the other places but I definitely don't think I would have been challenged the same way spiritually in those places, and that's one of the biggest things I've taken away after five years being here," Brandon said.

Following a redshirt season in 2013, Brandon did not play in any games during the 2014 season. He made his collegiate debut against Indiana in 2015, but only played in two other games during the year.

By 2016, Brandon burst on to the scene against Temple, having played just 44 career snaps entering the game, he finished with eight tackles, his first career tackle for loss and his first career pass breakup in 68 total snaps against the Owls. 

As injuries took their toll on the Nittany Lion linebackers, Brandon made his first collegiate start on the road at Michigan.

Playing in all 14 games during the 2016 Big Ten Championship season, he highlighted the year with a career-high 14 tackles against Maryland, grabbing his first interception to earn Big Ten Defensive Player of the Week honors.

He hasn't looked back since, now a regular face on the field, most recently stepping into a starting role at Will linebacker, atop this week's depth chart.


Through his rise to success on the field, what makes his high school sweetheart most proud though, is the character he has kept throughout the process.

"When he wasn't playing the first couple of years, versus last year when he did have the opportunity to be on that big stage, it hasn't changed who he is as a person," Andrea said. "He didn't let any of that affect him - the hard times or the good times, he always remained true to who he is. For me, that's just an incredible husband and best friend, but to so many other people, his teammates, his coaches, I think they've seen that in him, that he's just true and true the same person and they can always rely on him to be who he is. He's just always going to show up and be the Brandon Smith that everyone knows him as."

The same Brandon Smith that everyone knows though, is known for much more than what he contributes on the football field.

A seven-time Dean's List honoree, Smith has already earned one degree in kinesiology and is on track to graduate with a second degree in health, policy and administration. Helped out by a few perfect semesters, Brandon earned a 4.0 GPA in the 2017 spring semester to bring his cumulative GPA to a 3.81. 

While managing academic and football responsibilities, Brandon prioritizes being a husband too, and that means he needs to be diligent with his time.

"I just have to be focused and make the most out of the time that I have," Brandon said. "Sometimes it's easy to get lazy like between classes maybe trying to watch Netflix or something. Instead, I have to try to get my work done during the day and in between classes, take advantage of that time more and try to watch film so when I'm home at night I have as little to do as possible to be fair to my wife and not just come home, do work and go to bed. 

Andrea and Brandon also both recently applied to medical school, a process that is anything but brief.

For Brandon, that meant spending all spring and summer studying for the MCAT, a more than seven-hour test that's a key part of the application process. After passing the MCAT, it was time for applications. 

"The application process was pretty difficult because I was in training camp trying to finish them," Brandon said. "You have to get letters of recommendation from your teachers. I got one from Coach Franklin, he was nice enough to do one for me." 

After completing another round of secondary applications featuring more essays and personal statements, it's now a waiting game for both Andrea and Brandon, who await interview rounds from interested medical schools. 

While they didn't study together, when they do get time to spend together, helping others is something they can both do as a family. 

In 2012, Andrea and her sister Emily founded Honduran Soles, a nonprofit shoe organization designed to provide adequate footwear to those in need all over the world. 

"We kind of had this goal where we wanted to raise 200 pairs of shoes and send them to Honduras," Andrea said. "In a matter of months, we had 3,000 pairs of shoes and it just kind of grew from this small dream to this summer, we have sent out over 14,000 pairs in 22 countries."

Andrea's parents graciously offered up their garage, which serves as shoe warehouse for the operation, which she and Brandon, when he has time, dedicate to packing shoes to be sent out with different groups traveling to areas of the world in need.

Together, they traveled to Honduras during spring break in 2015 to spend time with children in an orphanage and build a soccer field.

"When we went there, we were handing out fruit and sandwiches and had some candy," Brandon said. "These kids were going absolutely berserk just to get a lollypop and it probably costs two cents there. Just seeing that level of desperation, in little kids none the less, it makes you realize how blessed we are to live here and how blessed we are to have all our needs met. Most people here have an abundance, way more than they need so it doesn't take much to try to give back and try to improve someone else's quality of life."

Their impact on others spans further than Honduras, as Andrea and Brandon's flower girl in their wedding was a young girl he met during one of Penn State Football's annual visits to the Penn State Children's Hospital.

"Brandon had met her in 2014 when the team went to Hershey over the summer," Andrea said. "I went to Messiah College, which is really close to Hershey, so I started volunteering at Hershey and I got to meet her." 

From a friendship, it grew into a truly special relationship, just one small example of the type of opportunities Brandon is proud to have at Penn State. 

"We just have tons and tons of opportunities and if you just take one minute extra to spend time with one of these people, you see how much of an impact is has on them," Brandon said. "We have this opportunity where people look up to us here and we're just normal people. People love Penn State Football and love the players, it doesn't take much at all to give back to those people."

From academics and community service to marriage and football, it wasn't always easy to find contentment with his role on the team.

"I said this in the team meeting when Coach Franklin had me share with the team one time, I really made a switch, even before I started playing, from woe-is-me to I'm not getting a chance, and this is and that," Brandon said. "I started just loving my teammates and loving the coaches and that changed my whole perspective." 

With a new perspective, how he viewed his Penn State experience, was immediately transformed.

"It wasn't that I didn't work hard, but just little things that I would say to other people or to myself, they weren't good for myself or the team," Brandon said. "When I could make that switch and just love myself, love the players and love the coaches, I started enjoying being here and I think I became a much better teammate during that time."

Now at peace in any circumstance, when looking back on the entire experience, it's his decision to go for it, that has truly made him proud.

"Unfortunately, a lot of people take their opportunities and circumstances for granted," Brandon said. "It's easy to be ungrateful when you're so focused on yourself. I think I'm most happy that I was able to grow out of that immaturity and see that there's a bigger picture here. I get to be a part of one of the best program's in the country at one of the best institutions in the country. I get to help out in great causes. It's just an amazing opportunity and I'm glad that I was able to make the most out of it.

Tuesday Roundup - Nebraska Week

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RELATED LINKS: Transcripts - Franklin I Gesicki, Smith I Watch - Full Press Conference

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - Penn State football returns to action Saturday, hosting Nebraska in its regular season home finale at Beaver Stadium. Nittany Lion head coach James Franklin met with members of the media at his weekly press conference joined by linebacker Brandon Smith and tight end Mike Gesicki.

For Gesicki and Smith, Saturday marks the final time they'll take to the field at Beaver Stadium alongside members of the 2017 senior class. With the emotions associated with a final outing on the home field, both Gesicki and Smith were reflective Tuesday afternoon, looking back at their Penn State careers.

"This is going to be a game filled with a bunch of emotions," Gesicki said. "It is the last game ever playing in Beaver Stadium, and I can still remember the first time I was here in Beaver Stadium. My junior year of high school, I visited for the White Out game against Ohio State, and I remember the atmosphere, the fans, and everything about Beaver Stadium."

Across his four years, Gesicki noted he'll cherish everything, specifically mentioning how much the program has changed since he first stepped foot on campus.

"When I first got here coach Franklin had been here for about five months," Gesicki said.
"There's been some guys on these teams that played for a few coaches. Finally over the past two years, we've had complete buy in by all 125 players on the team. We all have the utmost respect for coach Franklin and trust him, the scheme, and what he preaches to us day in and day out."

For someone like Smith, it's this year that has been the most meaningful to him.  

"This is my fifth season and I've just enjoyed all of it," Smith said. "I'd say patience has been one of the biggest things for me, just waiting for an opportunity, and preparation. Just having the right attitude. I talked to the team a couple weeks ago about my perspective switch of just being less selfish and more cheering my teammates on and being happy for the guys who got to play in front of me. Just being able to support them and that shift just lets you work harder, lets you have better focus, and so when your opportunity does come, you're ready."

On The Quote Board -
- Franklin on the unwavering commitment from this year's senior class.

"Those guys should be very proud," Franklin said. "I would hope that we sell out the stadium on Saturday for no other reason than to show these seniors how much we appreciate all their hard work and sacrifices that they've made."

- Gesicki on who will take his place as well as DaeSean Hamilton's in the post practice pass catching group including Juwan Johnson.

"Juwan always says, 'Man, we've got a few more weeks and then I'm going to be out here throwing the ball to myself,'" Gesicki said. "I'm not sure who Juwan is going to let enter this prestigious club of ours but whoever it is, they're going to go out there and get in a bunch of extra work and prepare for Saturdays, just like we have been for the past two years."

- Smith on his transition to linebacker.

"I knew I could play linebacker, so I'd talk to coach Pry and I'd talk to coach Franklin. Once a week, every other week, I'd be up in one of their offices telling them I can do this. I'm not pulling your leg or anything like that. I was thankful to have guys like Ben Klein or Nyeem Wartman who were older guys who were there while I transitioned to linebacker, and they vouched for me. I appreciate them because ultimately they let me switch and I'm really thankful for that opportunity. Who knows, they probably might have cut me if I stayed a tight end. So just thankful for that opportunity."

- Gesicki on the latest member to join the "DaeSean Hamilton friends club."

"The latest addition would be Andre Robinson," Gesicki said. "Andre has, for the past year and a half, literally - because I live with Andre, been like, 'dude, I wish DaeSean would talk to me.' I'd tell him 'maybe go up and say what's up?' Then Andre actually went through my phone and got DaeSean's number when I wasn't looking. He texted him and DaeSean responded with, 'Who is this?' And Andre was like, 'Oh, yeah, it's Andre.' So then Andre would text him like a hundred times a day, really just annoy him to be his friend. Now he knows that Andre's a funny dude and likes hanging out with him. I would say Andre is the new addition."

- Smith on what this year has meant to him.

"I think this season in general, even though I've been a back-up for most of the season, I've just enjoyed this more than any other season and made an extra effort to build relationships with my teammates," Smith said. "I don't even know if I'll remember actually playing in games. I think just the team and the locker room and things like that. I think this year, more than any, has been the most meaningful to me."

- Gesicki on how much pride he takes in the fact that he didn't give up dealing with adversity early in his career. 

"Ultimately I could have packed it in," Gesicki said. "That's not who I am. I'm a competitor. I had goals and aspirations. Then, going into that spring ball, I would write in my notebook every day. The first thing I'd write is I'm the best tight end. Every single day. If anybody ever read that, they would have laughed at me at that point in my life. Just because they would think you're not even close to that. I knew what I was capable of. That's something that I'm very proud of, how I grew and developed and become the player I am."


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