Penn State seniors proud of those who remain
STATE COLLEGE, Pa. – The players lined up in the bleachers just beyond the far end zone at Beaver Stadium. Thursday was media day in Happy Valley, and the Nittany Lions paused for a team picture, standing shoulder to shoulder while cameras clicked all around them.
For so many of the seniors, that moment was more than just a photo op – it served as a type of obvious but important symbolism. Over the last year, the university, its football program, and the surrounding community have been affected by the fallout from the Jerry Sandusky child sex abuse scandal. When the NCAA recently hit Penn State with significant sanctions, it gave prospective and current players an out-clause, permitting them to either de-commit or transfer without losing a year of eligibility.
Some student athletes – including star running back Silas Redd, who decided to leave for USC – availed themselves of that option. Perhaps that’s why those who stayed in State College spent so much time talking about why they didn’t abandon the team or the town.
“In my opinion, this is the greatest place on Earth, the greatest place in college football,” senior quarterback Matt McGloin said. “Once you get here, you don’t want to leave. Coach [Bill] O’Brien came in and what he’s done so far for this program and all the other coaches have done, and what the fans have done, I don’t understand why you would want to leave. That’s why I’ve remained so loyal to this place. That’s not the way I was raised – when things got tough, to bail. I stayed loyal to the program. I stayed true to a place like this.”
That was a common sentiment expressed by so many of the players on Thursday – an undying love for Penn State and its program despite the turmoil – but McGloin went further. Standing on the field where he’s played so many games, the quarterback was asked about his initial reaction to the NCAA sanctions. His response was as complimentary of the current Nittany Lions as it was critical of those who defected.
“Right then and there, you had to make a decision: You were either going to stick it out, or you were going to bail and be selfish,” McGloin said. “For the most part a lot of us stayed here, stayed true to the program and thought about the team, thought about what the coaches have done and thought about the fans. It couldn’t be better, the position we’re in right now. We have a chance to do something great for this university and try to bring this university back.”
McGloin wasn’t the only one who seemed disappointed by the players who decided to leave. Senior Gerald Hodges – who’s on the Butkus Award watch list for the best linebackers in college football – said he never considered leaving because he’s “loyal to my guys and they’re loyal to me.”
“It just shows character – for everyone who stayed and everyone who left,” Hodges said. “I have the utmost respect for those guys who did leave, but it shows character a little bit.
“I think the coaches knew I wasn’t going anywhere. They consider me one of their leaders. As a leader, I wasn’t going to just get up and leave. What type of person would I be to do that? I think they already knew that it wasn’t even an option for me.”
There was a pronounced sense of unity at Beaver Stadium on Thursday, as though the players who were there had the kind of deep and significant connection to each other that can only occur after going through something traumatic together.
“I couldn’t be more excited about the guys who decided to stay,” senior fullback Michael Zordich said. “It means so much, and on more than a football level – on a friendship, brotherhood, camaraderie, team level. That’s as deep as it gets. You could go anywhere and do anything, but you decided to stay and stick it out through a time like this. That means a whole lot.”