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Nearly 50 Football Student-Athletes Earn 3.0 GPA or Higher During Spring Semester

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Seniors Mike Hull and Zach Zwinak graduated in May

June 18, 2014


       The Penn State football team produced another outstanding academic performance during the spring 2014 semester, with 46 squad members earning at least a 3.0 grade-point average, including three with a perfect 4.0 GPA.

       Forty of the 46 Nittany Lions will be returning for the 2014 season. During the 2013 spring semester, there also were 46 players that earned a 3.0 GPA or higher.

       Among the 46 high achieving Nittany Lions this past semester, 24 posted a 3.5 GPA or higher, with 21 the passing minimum 12 credits, to earn Dean’s List recognition. The 21 Dean’s List honorees is a significant increase from last spring’s total of 12.

       The superlative academic performance by Coach James Franklin’s squad during the spring semester brings to 41 the total number of Penn State football student-athletes with a cumulative 3.0 or higher GPA who are returning for the 2014 season. The 41 total also is an increase over the spring 2013 total of 34 returning players with a 3.0 GPA.

       “Our goal is to have the No. 1 college football organization in the country and it all starts with academics and ends with academics,” Franklin said. “To see our players prospering academically, being successful in the classroom and graduating is what it’s all about.”

       Redshirt freshman placekicker Chris Gulla (Toms River, N.J.) was among three Nittany Lions that earned a 4.00 grade-point average during the semester. The Dean’s List student has a 3.60 cumulative GPA. Also earning a 4.0 GPA were seniors Kyle Baublitz and Pat Zerbe, who graduated in May.



       Among some of the other returning Nittany Lions who made the Dean’s List last spring were: wide receiver Gregg Garrity (Pittsburgh), safety Ryan Keiser (Selinsgrove), linebacker Ben Kline (Seven Valleys), kick snapper Zach Ladonis (Nescopeck), cornerback Jesse Merise (Hillside, N.J.), quarterback Michael O’Connor (Ottawa, Ontario, Canada) and receiver Matt Zanellato (Burke, Va.).

       Kline has been selected to the Capital One/CoSIDA Academic All-District® team the past two years and will be among Penn State’s candidates for Capital One/CoSIDA Academic All-America® consideration.

       Fourteen true freshmen earned a 3.0 GPA during the spring semester, including tight end Adam Breneman (Mechanicsburg), guard Evan Galimberti (State College), Big Ten Freshman of the Year Christian Hackenberg (Palmyra, Va.), tackle Andrew Nelson (Hershey), linebacker/kick returner Von Walker (Mill Hall), Garrity, Ladonis and O’Connor, all of whom also have a cumulative 3.0 GPA or higher.

       Among the returning Nittany Lions joining Keiser and Kline with at least a 3.0 cumulative GPA after the spring semester are: defensive end Brad Bars (Nashville, Tenn.), linebacker Brandon Bell (Mays Landing, N.J.), tight end Kyle Carter (Bear, Del.), safety Jesse Della Valle (Pittsburgh), guard Miles Dieffenbach (Pittsburgh), placekicker Sam Ficken (Valparaiso, Ind.), wide receiver DeSean Hamilton (Fredericksburg, Va.), linebacker Mike Hull (Canonsburg), and running back Deron Thompson (Lititz).

       Bars, Della Valle, Dieffenbach, Hull and running back Zach Zwinak (Frederick, Md.) have already graduated and four more returnees are on schedule to graduate in August.

       The outstanding academic performance is the latest success in a long line of academic achievement for Penn State football student-athletes, who consistently are at or near the top nationally in academic success:

       - Penn State football student-athletes that enrolled in the University from 2003-06 earned a superlative NCAA Graduation Success Rate of 85 percent, according to the 2013 NCAA Graduation Rate Report. Penn State’s GSR was among the top 10 percent in the nation, tied with Rutgers and TCU for No. 12 overall among the 124 Football Bowl Subdivision (FBS) institutions.

       - The Nittany Lions’ football graduation rate was tied for No. 2 among all public FBS schools, trailing only Boise State. Penn State’s graduation figure was 15 points higher than the 70 percent FBS average and was second to Northwestern among Big Ten institutions, according to the NCAA in October, 2013.

       - The Penn State football program has had 63 Capital One/CoSIDA Academic All-America® selections all-time, including first-team honoree John Urschel in 2012 and '13, the second-highest total among all Football Bowl Subdivision (FBS) institutions.

       - The Nittany Lions’ 18 Academic All-Americans® over the past eight seasons (16 first-team) leads the nation. The Penn State football team has had a least one first-team Academic All-American® in 10 of the past 12 seasons (19 overall first-team selections since 2002).

       - A total of 332 Penn State football student-athletes have earned Academic All-Big Ten honors since 1993 for owning at least a 3.0 grade point average and being a letterwinner. The Nittany Lions had 24 honorees last fall.

       Franklin was named Penn State's 16th head football coach on January 11. A product of Langhorne, Pa., Franklin led Vanderbilt University to unprecedented success the past three years as head coach, including consecutive nine-win seasons and bowl victories the past two years, as well as back-to-back Top 25 finishes, all for the first time in Vanderbilt history. In his 20th year of coaching, Franklin was a two-time All-PSAC quarterback at East Stroudsburg University and set or tied 23 school records.

       More than 4,000 new Penn State football season tickets have been sold for the 2014 campaign. There again was no increase in season tickets prices for Penn State football for the upcoming season.

       Fans are now able to purchase Penn State football season tickets and make their Nittany Lion Club donation online at, while choosing their own seats by utilizing Virtual Venue. New season tickets also are available by calling 1-800-NITTANY, weekdays from 8 a.m.-5 p.m.

       The Recent Graduate ticket program gives Penn State graduates who earned an undergraduate degree from 2010-14 at any campus the opportunity to purchase up to two season tickets for $300 per ticket for the seven-game home schedule this fall. The cost includes a $50 donation to the Nittany Lion Club and is a savings of 35 percent from the regular $460 season ticket price ($360 + $100 NLC donation).

       More than 600 Recent Graduate program season tickets have been sold. Interested recent graduates can call 1-800-NITTANY, weekdays from 8 a.m.-5 p.m.

       Penn State returns 40 letterwinners and 15 starters (7 offense, 7 defense, 1 specialist) for the upcoming season and will play a trio of 2013 Top 10 teams this fall. The Nittany Lions will host Rose Bowl Champion Michigan State (Nov. 29), Ohio State (Oct. 25, 8 p.m.), Northwestern (Sept. 27-Homecoming, 12 p.m.) and Maryland (Nov. 1) during its 2014 Big Ten home schedule. Penn State will host Akron (Sept. 6), UMass (Sept. 20) and Temple (Nov. 15) during its non-conference slate.

       The Nittany Lions open the season Aug. 30 vs. UCF in the Croke Park Classic in Dublin, Ireland.

       Penn State Football is on Twitter (@PennStateFball) and Facebook (


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