Three Seniors to Join Franklin at 43rd Annual Big Ten Kickoff

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July 27, 2014


UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - A trio of senior leaders will join first-year head coach James Franklinwhen the Penn State contingent travels to the 43rd Annual Big Ten Kickoff, July 28-29 in Chicago.

Seniors Bill Belton (Sicklerville, N.J.), Sam Ficken (Valparaiso, Ind.) and Mike Hull(Canonsburg, Pa.) will accompany Franklin to the Windy City at one of the most prominent pre-season media festivities in the nation. The International Ballroom at the Hilton Chicago will host the event, which officially launches the start of the 119th season of Big Ten football.

One of the most exciting and unique events in college football, the Big Ten Kickoff Luncheon provides nearly 2,000 fans and media members to meet player and coaches from all 14 Big Ten institutions.

BTN and ESPN will provide live coverage from Big Ten Kickoff on Monday, July 28, with BTN coverage starting at 10:30 a.m. ET. Penn State head coach James Franklin will address the entire media contingent at 2 p.m. ET. BTN will air its Kickoff Luncheon Special on Wednesday, July 30 at 7 p.m. ET. 

The nation's largest conference pre-season public event includes autograph and photo sessions for fans, breakout media sessions with outlets from around the country and a luncheon that features comments from all 14 head coaches.

Named Penn State's 16th head football coach on January 11, 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. A native of Langhorne, Pa, Franklin was a two-time All-PSAC quarterback at East Stroudsburg University and set or tied 23 school records.

A tireless worker, Franklin has demonstrated the ability to recruit, teach and motivate talented student-athletes throughout his 20-year coaching tenure. He was named Vanderbilt's head coach on December 17, 2010 after three years as the assistant head coach/offensive coordinator/quarterbacks coach at Maryland, his second stint with the Terps. Franklin was the offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach at Kansas State in 2006-07 and the wide receivers coach of the NFL's Green Bay Packers (2005) prior to arriving in Nashville.

Senior Sam Ficken

One of the most athletic and dynamic players on the roster, Belton is poised to play a paramount role in the success of the Nittany Lion offense this fall. Among the squad's most dedicated workers, Belton was second on the team with 1,036 all-purpose yards, good for a 94.2 average, in 2013. The senior running back gained 803 yards on 157 carries for a strong 5.1 average last year, with a long of 51 yards, and scored five rushing touchdowns. Belton ranked ninth in Big Ten games only with 78.6 rushing yards per game. Against Minnesota, he became the 41st Nittany Lion to record 1,000 career rushing yards, ending the season with 1,131 career yards, good for No. 35 on the prestigious list.

A swift runner and receiver with good hands and leaping ability, Belton was tied for sixth on the team with 15 receptions for 158 yards and two scores, with a long catch of 30 yards. A starter in four games last season, he also had 75 yards on kickoff returns. Belton and fellow senior Zach Zwinakshould again form one of the Big Ten's top running back tandems after combining to gain 1,792 yards in 2013. A former receiver, Belton joined elite company in the win over Illinois last fall when he gained a career-high 201 yards, becoming the 15th Nittany Lion to rush for at least 200 yards in a game.

One of the most improved players on the roster, Ficken led the Nittany Lions in scoring for the second-straight season and wrote his name into the record books in 2013. One of the squad's leaders on and off the field, he earned honorable-mention All-Big Ten recognition last fall. After connecting on his final 10 field goal attempts of the 2012 season, Ficken was true on his first five attempts in 2013 to boost his consecutive made streak to 15, breaking Craig Fayak's school record of 13-straight field goals in 1992. The former Valparaiso High School all-state player delivered the longest field goal by a Penn State player in home game history when he knocked in a 54-yard attempt in the rain against Kent State.

Senior Mike Hull

Ficken led the team with 86 points last year, connecting on 15-of-23 field goals and 41-of-42 extra points. Entering the 2014 campaign, Ficken is 11th in school career field goals made (30) and just 20 points shy of writing his name among the top 15 scorers in school history. Ficken is a two-time Academic All-Big Ten honoree. The Dean's List student owned a 3.59 cumulative grade-point average in finance entering the summer and is a potential Capital One/CoSIDA Academic All-America® candidate. He is on schedule to graduate in December. Ficken is interning this summer with Merrill Lynch.

Named first-team preseason All-Big Ten by Athlon Sports and Lindy's and second-team all-conference by Phil Steele's College Football Preview, Hull is among the team's top leaders heading into the 2014 season. A CoSIDA Academic All-America candidate, Hull continues a long line of "Linebacker U" standouts from the Pittsburgh area. Hull was second on the team with 78 tackles (44 solo) last year despite missing two full games and most of two others due to injury.

The Canonsburg native ranked fifth in the conference with 9.1 tackles per game in Big Ten play, making at least nine tackles in six Big Ten games. He is a passionate workhorse in the weight room and regularly ranks among the strongest non-linemen in team strength and conditioning testing. A three-time Academic All-Big Ten honoree, Hull earned his degree in finance in May. The former Canon-McMillan High School standout owned a 3.30 cumulative grade-point average through the spring semester.

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 GoPSUsports.com/seasontickets, 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.

The public Penn State single game ticket sale begins Tuesday, July 15 at 10 a.m. at GoPSUsports.com/tickets, by calling 1-800-NITTANY or visiting the Bryce Jordan Center box office.

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.

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