“Last night was my first Penn State game…”
The email hit The Penn Stater magazine inbox the day after the Big Ten title game, sent by a self-described “life-long PSU fan” and former Marine named Eric Norwood:
Last night was my first Penn State game. I took my dad — also a lifelong fan, also his first game… I feel so proud to be somewhat a part of this student body. Living and dying on each play with thousands of Penn State students, fans, and alums was definitely an experience I’ll never forget. I still have goosebumps and can’t stop singing Hey Baby 😂. Thanks everyone for a fantastic season and night!
Needless to say, we thought this was pretty great.
So, we got in touch with Eric this week for a little background. An eight-year veteran of the Marine Corps, he left the service earlier this year after returning from his fourth deployment — right around the time he found out his wife was pregnant. “I kind of figured it was time to settle down,” he says.
Back living in and working in the Chicago suburbs where he grew up, Eric decided he wanted to finally pursue his dream of going to college — something he hadn’t had time for as a Marine. He decided to enroll in Penn State’s World Campus, which, in addition to having a great reputation for accommodating military members and vets, is also connected to his favorite college football team.
Despite growing up in Illinois, Eric says he was “born and raised” a Nittany Lion fan. His dad, Mike, followed the program from afar, a fan of Joe Paterno and the Grand Experiment. “Ever since I knew what football was, I’ve been a Chicago Bears and Penn State fan,” Eric says. “It’s just one of those things that got passed down.”
It was only when the Lions clinched a trip to the Big Ten title game that Eric decided he might finally have a chance to see his team in person. He wasn’t sure he could justify the cost, but with Indy just a few hours down the road, he couldn’t pass up the chance. He initially only bought one ticket, then, deciding he “didn’t want to experience this alone,” convinced his wife that a ticket for his dad would make a perfect early Christmas present.
And the game itself? Well, you know how that went.
For Eric and his dad, the camaraderie they felt that night in Indy might have been as memorable as the game itself. “We made a bunch of friends in the stands,” he says. For a Penn State student who has yet to set foot on campus, a Penn State fan savoring his first opportunity to see his team play, it’s hard to imagine a better night. As he put it: “What a first game to go to.”
Just know it won’t be the last. “Me and my dad didn’t get home until 3, 3:30 in the morning,” Eric says, “and I was already talking to my wife: ‘I gotta go to Happy Valley next year.'”
Keep us posted, Eric. We know a great tailgate that would be happy to have you.
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