The quality of the photo—shot on an iPhone in a dimly lit hotel conference room—doesn’t do justice to the quality of the moment.
The moment came Thursday night in Pittsburgh, on the final stop of the first full week of the Penn State Coaches Caravan. In the middle, is Bryan Hondru ’67, ’69g, a starting offensive lineman and academic All-American for both Rip Engle and Joe Paterno. The man in the blue blazer? None other than Chuck Fusina ’79, All-American quarterback for the 1978 squad that played for the national championship. Next to Fusina is Wally Richardson ’96, ’03g, another QB who wore #14 and put his name all over the Penn State record books.
To Hondru’s right is Terry Smith ’91, the record-setting wide receiver and current Nittany Lion assistant coach, and Patrick Weber ’07, an academic all-Big Ten lineman. The only guys in the photo who didn’t play for Penn State are Bob Shoop, the Nittany Lions’ new defensive coordinator and a Western PA native who talked about idolizing Fusina as a kid; and of course, James Franklin. As someone who talks constantly of the importance of relationships and family to a successful football program, it’s no surprise that Franklin sees his first Coaches Caravan as a great chance to connect, across miles and generations, with members of the Penn State football family tree.
With a big assist from Richardson, back on campus as director of the Football Letterman’s Club, Franklin is making time to meet with former players at every stop. The vibe is informal: football guys telling stories and sharing memories, brought together by their commitment to the program. On Tuesday night in Hershey, it was John Greene ’88, ’90g, Tyler Valoczki ’02, and Tyler Lenda ’02; Wednesday in D.C., Andre Collins ’91 and Stephon Morris ’13 stopped by. There have been other lettermen at most of the stops, and we’re looking forward to seeing more when the Caravan gets rolling again next week.
Thursday night in Pittsburgh was probably the coolest of these gatherings so far, if only for how it so seamlessly bridged so many different eras. From the ’60s to the 2000s, the family tree reaches reaches far and wide. Such a strong connection between Penn State football’s past and present can only bode well for the future.
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