It was hard to keep track of all the NFL Draft-related tweets in recent days, from the many messages celebrating Chris Godwin on his selection by the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, to congrats for all the other Nittany Lions who signed free-agent deals, to the tweets anticipating the many talented Lions who will feature in the draft over the next few years.
But one tweet in particular caught our attention. Mostly because it was a draft tweet that wasn’t really about the draft.
The author, of course, is Penn State receivers coach Josh Gattis. And what struck us was the simplicity of the tweet: Congratulating the three members of the 2016 receiving corps who have recently started new jobs. It just so happens that one of those jobs is “professional football player.”
We’re as excited as anyone to see what Chris Godwin—@CGtwelve if you’re not up on your Twitter handles—does in the NFL. But for Gattis, the priority was clear: Let’s hear it for all of our guys, whether they’re succeeding on or off the field. The other guys, in this case, are Gregg “Pook” Garrity ’16 and Gordon Bentley. Garrity (#19, above) graduated in December, while Bentley (crouching in front of Gattis and the Big Ten championship trophy) will walk with his classmates this weekend. Both recently took the first steps in their post-college life.
Garrity’s name is familiar to generations of Penn State fans: His dad, Gregg Garrity ’83, is himself a former Lion and the man who made the most famous catch in program history. The younger Garrity didn’t quite match his father’s impact on the field, but he’s already off to a great start off it: Earlier this year, he took a job with Northwestern Mutual doing financial planning, investing, and wealth management. Bentley, meanwhile, was hired last month as a district manager at the grocery chain Aldi.
Both players began their Penn State careers as walk-ons: Garrity was a “preferred” walk-on under Bill O’Brien, while Bentley tried out twice before earning a roster spot under James Franklin. They’ve got something else in common: Both earned Academic All-Big Ten honors last year. In that, they personify the priorities that Penn State football has emphasized for decades—priorities both say remain intact.
“I was brought up in that Penn State culture, and that’s how my dad raised me, so it’s great to see how it’s transitioned through the different coaches and staff,” Garrity says.
Adds Bentley, “Coach Franklin has instilled that culture in the players and the program: To have a great playing career, a great social experience, and a great academic experience.”
It’s a culture that extends beyond their playing days. Bentley, who earned the team’s highest academic average last year and won the Football Letterman’s Club Joe and Sue Paterno Post-Graduate Scholarship, says Gattis took him and Garrity out to breakfast a few weeks after the Rose Bowl. “He just wanted to make sure we were all set with jobs, see if we needed any help. He wanted us to know he was someone we could turn to.”
(Beyond the support from the football program, Bentley adds that Penn State’s alumni network was one of the primary reasons he came to Happy Valley in the first place.)
As for the tweet that caught our attention, Garrity says he wasn’t surprised at all. “If you look at the coach’s accounts, there’s a lot of stuff from outside football,” he says. “They’ll tell you who’s got the highest GPAs, show you guys sitting in the front of the classroom, and really make sure you get acknowledged for things off the field. I think it really incentivizes us as student-athletes to succeed and be leaders in the classroom.”
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