Lamar Stevens’ legacy

Penn State v. Indiana (Photo by Steve Manuel

Lamar Stevens moved into third place all-time in scoring (1,994) for Penn State basketball on Wednesday night against Indiana. Photo credit: Steve Manuel.

Lamar Stevens has increasingly cemented his all-time standing within the Penn State hoops program this season.

There are the points — he’s now third among Nittany Lions with 1,994 in his career. Stevens also eclipsed the 800-rebound mark in the team’s win against Indiana on Wednesday. Tied at halftime, Penn State outpaced the Hoosiers in the second half for a 64-49 victory, boosted by Stevens’ 17 points, nine rebounds, and four steals.

It was the latest performance in a season that’s shaping up to be Pat Chambers’ most memorable in Happy Valley. In December, Penn State earned a national ranking for the first time in more than two decades, and a likely NCAA Tournament appearance awaits the team in March.

When Stevens opted to return to Penn State for his senior year, these milestones likely represented what it’d take for the Nittany Lions to have a successful season.

Pick up meaningful road victories in the Big Ten. Ascend into the upper half of the conference. Go beyond the NIT and get into the big dance.

Penn State’s accomplished the first two and is trending the right way for the third.

So, the Nittany Lions are on the right trajectory, and Stevens has played a big-time role in positioning the team to play meaningful basketball in late March, something this fan base has been craving since the team’s last NCAA Tournament appearance nearly a decade ago.

Deliver that, and fans will rightly celebrate Stevens for a long time into the future.

However, that might not be where Stevens’ true legacy lies. Or at the very least, those achievements don’t tell the entire story.

The Nittany Lions are on the road for their next two contests, and then return to the Bryce Jordan Center on Saturday, Feb. 8, for a game against Minnesota.

The BJC should have a festive vibe, as the team has partnered with Special Olympics and LifeLink for what’s being hailed as “Everyone is Awesome Day.”

The first 1,000 fans will receive a Stevens T-shirt jersey, and the star forward has authored a children’s book, with illustrations contributed by kids with Down syndrome whom he’s met through the team’s community outreach efforts. Copies will be available, and Stevens will have a postgame book signing.

It’s the latest example of Stevens showing how he understands the platform he has, and the impact he can have — especially beyond the court.

From Coaches Vs. Cancer to the annual Buddy Walk, which raises funds and celebrates individuals with Down syndrome, Stevens has become a mainstay in the community.

Sure, he’s a star basketball player; and understandably, that’s how many fans will remember him. But it’s not what defines Stevens as a person.

“Lamar is an incredible ambassador for this university and this athletic department, he’s always giving back,” Chambers said. “I think he recognizes how blessed he is, and he doesn’t take anything for granted. He’s incredibly grateful for being in this position, and he’s always doing something for charities.

“He wants to give back, especially to children. I think that speaks volumes about his character, and how he’s wired, and how he’s made.”


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Ridge Riley’s timeless question

Road to Number One (1000x)

Even though we’re about a month removed from an incredibly successful (and enjoyable) season, we’re still amazed at how Penn State football unites our alumni network.

We have the privilege of seeing firsthand how much time and energy our alumni volunteers put forth during the football season, organizing events each weekend across the country.

Of course, each Saturday is a lot of fun. Additionally, watch parties serve as an opportunity to leverage the shared passion that Penn State alumni have for football into something that goes beyond the field.

Ridge Riley understood this better than any Penn Stater.

Riley faithfully served the Alumni Association for decades, ending each issue of The Football Letter with, “Faithfully, your correspondent.” He understood his audience and spotlighted what truly matters to Penn Staters, always providing insight that alumni couldn’t find anywhere else.

That’s why we’ll occasionally pop downstairs at the Hintz Family Alumni Center and peruse his book, “Road to Number One.” There are three copies in Robb Hall, two personally donated by the Riley family.

The pages and book covers are worn, a testament to how often alumni and friends will stop by and glance through the book, learning Riley’s perspective as he chronicled the rise of Penn State football from an eastern power into a national force.

Joe Paterno wrote the forward, a thoughtful reflection that included he was the last person to speak with Riley. During one of their many talks, in January 1976, Riley asked Paterno, “Where do we stand? Where are we right now?”

Both an incredibly simple and complex question.

Those were Riley’s last words (he died shortly after from a heart attack), and they’re just as timely now as in 1976. Coming off another 11-win season and NY6 bowl game, James Franklin and the Nittany Lions are primed for their first appearance in the College Football Playoff.

That isn’t just the hope, as it certainly seems to be the expectation for the team heading into 2020. Accomplish that, and the program’s third national title is also within reach.

So, imagine someone posed Riley’s question to you, heading into spring practice in a couple months: “Where do we stand? Where are we right now?”

What’s your answer?


For more on the The Football Letter, including online archives (requires Alumni Association member log-in), click here.

Not yet an Alumni Association member? Click here.

Top 10 Plays Of The 2019 Penn State Football Season

Memphis at Cotton Bowl 2019 (Photo by Steve Manuel)

Penn State closed out the season with a New Year’s Six win over the Memphis Tigers in the Cotton Bowl, marking the third time in the last four years James Franklin has led the program to an 11-win season.

It was a season full of memorable moments and some terrific individual plays. So, I took a crack at completing the difficult task of ranking the top 10 plays of the season.

No. 10: Sean Clifford drops a dime to Pat Freiermuth (Michigan State)

This was one of Sean Clifford’s more impressive throws of the season, his first as the starting quarterback. He got the perfect amount of distance and touch on this connection with Freiermuth, all the while he had pressure in his face forcing him to throw off his back foot.

No. 9: Shaka Toney Blocks Field Goal With His Helmet (Michigan State)

This isn’t something you see every day. Penn State’s special teams was vastly improved from a season ago. For Toney, he has grown a lot every season he’s been with the program. When he first saw the field he was more of a pass rush specialist. He’s since developed into a much more well-rounded defensive end that can handle his own against the run and pass. He’s expected to be back next year and will be a key leader for Brent Pry’s defense.

No. 8: Goal-Line Stand Seals Win Over Wolverines (Michigan)

This is a collection of plays rather than one, but it was a huge moment in Penn State’s season. The Nittany Lions defense held their ground with their backs against the wall and preserved a big White Out win over Michigan.

No. 7: John Reid’s Pick Six (Buffalo)

Another game early in the season where the Nittany Lion offense was pretty lifeless in the opening half. John Reid used his terrific football IQ to read the quarterback’s eyes and make a break on the ball. It was the kind of spark Penn State needed to pull away from Buffalo.

No. 6 Pat Freiermuth Runs Over Defensive Back (Memphis)

You’ve undoubtedly heard it before, but yeah, it’s easy to see why Pat Freiermuth is nicknamed “Baby Gronk.” Just flat out levels the defender here. It was a huge boost that he announced his return to the program for 2020. He could have easily been a first round draft pick in the NFL draft in a few months time.

No. 5: Jordan Stout Sets A Record (Pitt)

On a day when the Penn State offense was largely unproductive, Jordan Stout supplied a bit of momentum heading into halftime with this school-record boot. His big leg was a great addition to the special teams unit.

No. 4: Micah Parsons Forces Fumble, Garrett Taylor Scores (Memphis)

Penn State and Memphis continued to go back and forth late into the third quarter in the Cotton Bowl, but this play proved to be a huge momentum shift with the Nittany Lions clinging to a two-point lead. Micah Parsons was all over the field in this game and this play was a great example of why he enters the 2020 season with some Heisman buzz. Also, a big credit to senior Garrett Taylor for being in the right place at the right time to return the ball to the end zone.

No. 3: Nick Eury Plows Into The End Zone (Idaho)

There were more important touchdowns in the grand scheme of Penn State’s season, but there weren’t many as special as this. This was a really cool moment for one of the hardest working players on the team. Nick Eury scored the only touchdown of his career with this tremendous effort. One of the team’s walk-ons, he was later awarded a scholarship in December. It’s what college football is all about.

No. 2: KJ Hamler Outmaneuvers Maryland Defenders (Maryland)

There’s a reason KJ Hamler’s nickname is “The Human Joystick.” The way he can evade defenders in the open when it seems they got a beat on him is ridiculous. His highlight reel from just two seasons of action in Happy Valley will go down with the best of them.

No. 1: Journey Brown Goes Beast Mode (Memphis)

Journey Brown set a new bowl record for Penn State with 202 rushing yards in the win over the Tigers. No run was more impressive than this one, though, in which he did his best Marshawn Lynch impression. I count four broken tackles on his way to the end zone, including the final one in which he literally drags the defender four yards for the score.

What was your favorite play of the season? Feel free to let us know in the comments below.

Thanks for reading along with us all throughout the 2019 season. And stay tuned for some more content throughout the spring leading up to the Blue-White Game in April.

We Are!