Feb. 6, 2014
By Astrid Diaz, GoPSUsports.com Student Staff Writer
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - A new group of Nittany Lions are a part of the Penn State Varsity `S' Club after receiving the their first-year letterwinner's jacket Monday night at the Nittany Lion Inn.
The ceremony began with a social hour where the athletes spent time conversing with their peers, coaches, and administrators.
The semi-annual event, hosted by the Department of Intercollegiate Athletics and the Penn State Varsity `S' Club, brought coaches, staff members, and administrators to celebrate the induction of 200 current student-athletes, from winter, spring, and fall varsity sports, into one of the most illustrious varsity athletic clubs in the country.
"It is a great day for you and a great day for Penn State to be able to honor you," said Director of Athletics Dave Joyner in his introduction. "My deepest congratulations to you because you are joining a terrific group of people that have won letters at Penn State."
The Varsity Letter Jacket Ceremony is a special night for student-athletes as it is one of the highest honors of their athletic career.
"It means a lot to the whole athletic department," said Clint Eury, Director of the Varsity `S' Club and former Penn State baseball player. "Tonight we have the opportunity to recognize the importance of the letter and that those student-athletes are part of a select group of individuals."
"The first year letter is a hard one to get. These student-athletes understand what it takes to excel," said Eury. "[They] need to earn it; in the classroom, in the community, on the field. It's a lot and we want to make sure we showcase that [they] made it, [they] did it."
Athletes receive a blue and white embroidered jacket that represents their accomplishments for their first year as student-athletes in the Penn State community.
"It feels good to be given the letter because it's something I've earned not something I'm given," said junior Sidney Sanabria-Robles of women's gymnastics.
The jacket embodies the heart of Penn State traditions and represents the hours of practice, community service projects, and academic achievements of the student-athletes through their first-year as part of a varsity team at Penn State.
"The Penn State Intercollegiate Athletics (ICA) equals I.A.C.: integrity, academics, and championships," said Joyner. "[Student-athletes] certainly represent that ethos extremely well. We are very, very proud of what [they] do...with integrity...in [their] academic life and...[they] get it all because [they] know how to win championships."
In his introduction, Dr. Joyner addressed the phenomenal past few seasons by Penn State Athletics.
The Women's volleyball team won it's sixth national title this past fall, which ties with Stanford for the most in history. It's their fifth title in last seven years.
Penn State has earned 16 Big Ten titles, a national coach of the year, Russ Rose, and NCAA Elite 89 student-athlete, Maggie Hardy, to name a few.
Penn State student-athletes have produced 71 national championships and 70 Big Ten regular season titles, more than 750 All Americans, and more than 184 Academic All Americans, the nation's third-highest total.
In attendance at the ceremony was keynote speaker was David Hall, class of 1994 and former Penn State baseball player.
Hall spoke to those in attendance about the meaning of the `S' jacket, the adversity they all overcome before earning the varsity honors, and how receiving the letter is one of the most cherished memories of his career.
"[You] have a partnership for life. This institution is committed [to you]...your coaches are your partners and [they will] look at you and [tell you] you are not afraid to fail," said Hall.
"People understand what you go through. People understand what it's like to be a Division I athlete," said Hall. "With this letter, you have the chance to be different. You are in a position to better...this differentiates you."
President of the Student Athletics Advisory Board (SAAB), Preston Gall addressed the audience as the congratulatory speaker. He had a very important message: "Don't be afraid to be a leader."
The student-athletes are prepared to embrace their roles.
"[The jacket] represents Penn State and [all] the student-athletes. You have to be a good role model," said women's gymnastics junior Sidney Sanabria-Robles.
Following Gall's congratulatory message was the presentation of the letterwinners. Each athlete was celebrated individually and as a team.
For the first time in the ceremony's history, the Varsity `S' Club honored 44 Penn State men's and women's ice hockey athletes.
"Last year was the first year of a [Division I] season and it's very exciting," said men's ice hockey head coach Guy Gadowsky. "It's a tremendous accolade to receive a letter from such a great university."
The athletes wasted no time before taking pictures, laughing, and sharing the moment with their fellow peers.
"It's nice seeing all the other athletes because we never really get together a lot and it's cool that we have a connection," said sophomore swimmer Alyson Ackman
"It's a great honor to be a part of a very special group of people," said quarterback Christian Hackenberg. "The support for each other is great."
Not one single student-athlete took their letterwinner's jacket off after receiving it.
"It's an awesome feeling knowing the tradition and being able to represent Penn State with so much pride," said sophomore gymnast Trevor Howard.
"Coming here [to Penn State] I felt like I have a family, a whole team that cares about me. I feel great wearing this is `S'," said sophomore gymnast Alexis Torres.
The message from all the coaches, staff members, and administrators present was synonymous: "Congratulations. You will cherish these memories for the rest of your life."
The ceremony ended with the singing of the Penn State Alma Mater.