Back Home in Happy Valley

Anthony “Spice” Adams (left) and Deon Butler were part of a large contingent of lettermen who returned to Beaver Stadium last Saturday. Photo credit: John Patishnock

During a typical home game, the sidelines at Beaver Stadium are filled with All-Americans, all-conference selections, record holders, and even Hall of Famers.

The White Out against Auburn? Every time you turned around, you bumped into a Nittany Lion legend.

As a blue blood program, Penn State has more than its fair share of icons. What distinguishes the Nittany Lion letterman, though, is their motivation to return to campus whenever possible. A lot of them do, even on a regular basis. For some lettermen, however, the time between visits can be many years.

Too long” is how all-time great linebacker Paul Posluszny described how long it had been since he was on campus, during his appearance on Football Letter Live earlier this fall. Posluszny changed all that over the weekend, returning to State College and serving as honorary captain for Saturday’s game. In that role, he accompanied the Nittany Lion captains to midfield for the pregame coin flip and was announced to the crowd, giving him a much-deserve chance to be recognized.

“What an unbelievable example that guy is of what you can do at Penn State and where Penn State can take you, obviously, after you get done playing,” head coach James Franklin said of Posluszny. The two spent some time together during the linebacker’s visit and exchanged messages afterward.

The morning after the game, Adams stopped by the head coach’s office. “I’ve developed a really strong relationship with Spice, got a ton of respect for him, for what he’s been able to do throughout his career,” Franklin said.

One of the main challenges or opportunities (you can look at it either way) for Franklin is to honor Penn State’s storied past while embracing a modern approach that resonates with current recruits and players. To say that’s difficult is putting it lightly. However, Franklin’s struck that balance with lettermen, with Adams and Posluszny only two examples of players from previous generations with whom Franklin’s connected. Adam Taliaferro is another letterman that jumps to mind. There are others.

Franklin’s often said that he wants players to stay connected to the program even after they graduate (a timely topic since Saturday is Senior Day), and the head coach said that conversation occurs as early as the recruiting process and continues while the players are on campus.

It’s one thing to instill that message with players who you’ve personally recruited to campus. It’s another to share that message with lettermen who have a strong connection to the past but may see you “as the new guy.” Any initial awkwardness that might’ve existed has been overcome. As one example, it’s worth noting Franklin called Adams and Posluszny, “Spice” and “Poz,” using their more informal nicknames, indicating a level of familiarity with both of them.

“For us, obviously with a coaching staff coming in after the same coaching staff being here for a really long time, we’ve had to work really hard at building those relationships and getting those guys back because it’s just different,” Franklin said. “It’s just different for them to come back after 50 years of it being pretty much the same.”

You can see more photos below of some of the lettermen who were at the game Saturday, with years and position listed below.

Paul Posluszny, 2003-06, linebacker
Left photo: Anthony “Spice” Adams, defensive tackle, 1999-2002; Deon Butler, wide receiver 2005-08. Right photo: Daryll Clark, quarterback, 2006-09; Butler.
Left photo: Chaz Powell, wide receiver, 2008-11; Clark; Derek Moye, wide receiver, 2008-11. Right photo: Adams.

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