Fitting into the Family

Senior defensive end Arnold Ebiketie (17) has had an immediate impact for Penn State, blocking a field goal and recording a sack in Madison a few weeks ago. Photo credit: Steve Manuel

It didn’t take long for Arnold Ebiketie to have an impact this season for Penn State.

How long? Exactly one snap.

“I looked over after the first play and saw he made a play, and then the next series he made a play. I was like, ‘He’s really good,'” PJ Mustipher said shortly after the Nittany Lions earned a 16-10 season-opening win at Wisconsin on Sept. 4. “For him to come out there, first game in Big Ten football, shoutout to AK.”

Ebiketie, or “AK” as he known to many of his teammates and coaches, recorded a sack and provided one of the most critical plays by blocking a field goal in the season-opening victory over the Badgers. Through two games, he’s helped the Nittany Lions limit their opponents to a total of 23 points.

Mustipher, a senior defensive tackle and team captain, added: “He’s fast. You can’t teach speed, and I don’t think you can stop speed. … He was able to use that to his advantage. … He made a lot of plays, so I’m proud of him.”

A senior defensive end, Ebiketie transferred from Temple late last year. There’s a lot to like about Ebiketie, who played high school football in Maryland before becoming a standout for Temple from 2017-20. He earned second-team conference honors last year, when he led the Owls in tackles for loss (8.5), sacks (4), and forced fumbles (3).

“When he came in, it just felt like he fit our family,” said senior linebacker Ellis Brooks, who added that what stands out to him the most is Ebiketie’s attitude and work ethic. “He comes to work every single day at practice. You can tell he’s really getting himself prepared to play Saturday.”

Ebiketie, who was born in Cameroon, a country in Central Africa, is majoring in recreation, parks, and tourism management. On the field, he wrecks havoc, which along with his intangibles, has earned him credibility and respect on the team. There’s also a seemingly easy-going side of Ebiketie, or at least a different side. After Saturday’s win over Ball State, he celebrated with students in Nittanyville and with young fans who lined the south tunnel to see the Nittany Lions walk off the field and into the locker room.

“He’s an awesome young man,” James Franklin said this week. “He’s very appreciative of the experience that he’s having at Penn State. He’s always got a huge smile on his face. He’s a mature young man. He’s great with his teammates, but he’s also got a really good way with the staff. He understands how to live in both of those worlds and do it in a way that’s very relatable and respected. He’s obviously a very talented football player that’s got a bright future.”

Ebiketie was a notable transfer for Penn State and has erased any sort of drop-off that might be expected after the Nittany Lions had two defensive ends selected in this year’s NFL Draft (Ofade Oweh and Shaka Toney). Teammates jokingly teased Ebiketie that playing in the Big Ten would be different, though he’s clearly been ready from the start.

Franklin noted that Ebiketie was a good player when he arrived, and he believes Ebiketie has only gotten better by working with defensive line coach John Scott Jr. and with grad assistant Deion Barnes. By putting in work in the weight room and focusing on his body composition and nutrition, Ebikeite “has really developed in the time that he’s been on campus,” Franklin said.

You can check out the video below to see Ebiketie talking about the need to continuing to work. This was after he had a breakout game against the Badgers in his first contest for Penn State. You get the sense that Ebiketie was destined to always be a Nittany Lion, to always play in Happy Valley, with how seamlessly he’s adjusted to life at Penn State, where Franklin has always advocated having a family atmosphere, one where sons and daughters, brothers and sisters sit alongside players and coaches and share in the experience.

“He’s very coachable, and I know Coach Pry and the defensive staff just have a ton of trust in him and how he plays,” Franklin said. “We love him, he’s been a great pick up. We had victory Monday meal last night at Pollock (Commons), and he was there with my wife and kids, laughing and telling stories. We’re very happy to have him.”

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