Here. We. Go.

James Franklin and the Nittany Lions will begin their 2020 season on Oct. 24 at Indiana. Photo by Steve Manuel.

There’s a popular meme that’s been circulating on social media over the years, a GIF from Christopher Nolan’s masterpiece, “The Dark Knight.”

Heath Ledger’s character, The Joker, looks out across the city landscape while his diabolical plan is underway, and he says with a wave of his hand, “Here. We. Go.”

That’s what this week has felt like for Penn State fans, with the formal announcement that Big Ten football would begin an abbreviated season in late October.

Earlier today, the Nittany Lions’ eight-game regular season was shared, with James Franklin and Co. starting with an Oct. 24 contest against the Hoosiers in Bloomington. The following week, Ohio State visits for a clash on Halloween (Oct. 31), and Penn State will also host Maryland (Nov. 7), Iowa (Nov. 21), and Michigan State (Dec. 12). The Nittany Lions’ other three road games are at Nebraska (Nov. 14), Michigan (Nov. 28), and Rutgers (Dec. 5). Penn State will then play a ninth game on Dec. 19 against an opponent-to-be-determined from the West Division.

Image by Penn State Intercollegiate Athletics

This is all contingent on COVID-19 test results staying within the accepted positivity rates, and you can learn more about the medical protocols at GoPSUsports.com. There’s optimism the Big Ten will get through its season, if for no other reason that there’s been a tremendous amount of work that’s gone into ensuring student-athletes have a chance of competing this season, even in a shortened schedule.

Penn State Vice President of Intercollegiate Athletics Sandy Barbour joined this week’s episode of The Football Letter Live, and you can see her appearance on the Alumni Association’s Facebook page. She joins the show near the beginning of the episode.

One other noteworthy item from the week: Barbour said that the Big Ten has decided that they won’t allow on-campus tailgating, and fans are encouraged to cheer on the Nittany Lions from their homes or other places where they’re adhering to the local social distancing guidelines that are in place. 

Look at this way: This year’s cheering section will expand across the country. We’re looking forward to hearing everyone roar on Oct. 24.

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The Football Letter Live: Week 3

Big Ten football is back this fall, and so is The Football Letter Live this evening, for the third episode of our inaugural season.

Penn State Vice President for Intercollegiate Athletics Sandy Barbour will join the show to discuss the return of Big Ten football and what it means for the University and the student-athletes. We’re also discussing the student experience at Penn State, speaking with student leaders from Lion Ambassadors about the S-Zone. Penn State teaching professor Jon Nese will also join the program.

As a reminder, you can register for the entire season of shows online. Tune in tonight at 8 p.m. to celebrate the return of Penn State football. Register online to watch on Zoom or visit our Facebook page and share your questions in the comments.

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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.

Penn Staters At The Next Level: Week 1

Forty Penn Staters hold places on NFL rosters to start the 2020 season, which is good for fifth most in the nation. 

That’s also the most Nittany Lions on NFL rosters on opening weekend since at least 2006. 

Here’s a quick rundown of the standout performers from Week 1 and check the end of this blog for the full list of Penn Staters playing and coaching at the next level.

Allen Robinson II, WR, Chicago Bears 

A-Rob had a fruitful opening day performance in the Bears’ comeback win over the Detroit Lions. Robinson II posted five receptions for 74 yards, including this excellent grab to put his team in the red zone late in the third quarter. 

Feel like we’ve seen a catch or two like that before from him.

Trip Down Memory Lane: Allen Robinson II hauls in big pass in 4-OT win over Michigan in 2013. 

Allen Robinson outleaps defensive back to haul in 36-yard pass in final seconds to set up Lions’ final touchdown in regulation time Steve Manuel/The Football Letter

Chris Godwin, WR, Tampa Bay Buccaneers 

Godwin was targeted a team-high seven times by Tampa Bay’s new quarterback Tom Brady and recorded six catches for 79 yards. Big things are expected from Godwin this season after a breakout 2019 campaign, and Week 1 did little to diminish that. As he and Brady continue to develop their rapport, expect Godwin’s statlines to only get bigger and better. 

Trip Down Memory Lane: Chris Godwin goes off for monster performance in Rose Bowl. 

Chris Godwin had a record-setting showing in the 2017 Rose Bowl Game – Steve Manuel/The Football Letter

John Reid, CB, Houston Texans

While the Texans fell to the defending Super Bowl champion Kansas City Chiefs on opening night, Reid made a strong impression in his first career game. Reid finished fourth on the team with six tackles and was credited with a quarterback pressure when sent on a blitz from the secondary. 
Trip Down Memory Lane: John Reid’s pick-six fuels big second half for Penn State against Buffalo.

John Reid provided turning a point in the game with his pick-six early in third quarter – Steve Manuel/The Football Letter

Nittany Lions In The NFL
Baltimore Ravens (1): Trace McSorley
Buffalo Bills (1): Ryan Bates
Carolina Panthers (2): Yetur Gross-Matos, Shareef Miller 
Chicago Bears (2): Jordan Lucas, Allen Robinson II
Dallas Cowboys (2): Sean Lee, Connor McGovern
Denver Broncos (2): DaeSean Hamilton, KJ Hamler 
Detroit Lions (3): Jason Cabinda, Jesse James, Amani Oruwariye
Green Bay Packers (1): Adrian Amos 
Houston Texans (1): John Reid 
Indianapolis Colts (1): Robert Windsor 
Las Vegas Raiders (2): Nick Bowers, Carl Nassib
Los Angeles Rams (1): Nick Scott
Miami Dolphins (1): Mike Gesicki
Minnesota Vikings (1): Dan Chisena 
New Orleans Saints (1): Blake Gillikin 
New York Giants (3): Saquon Barkley, Cam Brown, Austin Johnson
New York Jets (1): Sam Ficken, Chris Hogan, Ross Travis
Philadelphia Eagles (2): Miles Sanders, Trevor Williams 
Pittsburgh Steelers (1): Marcus Allen, Stefen Wisniewski 
San Francisco 49ers (2): Kevin Givens, Robbie Gould 
Tampa Bay Buccaneers (3): Chris Godwin, A.Q. Shipley, Donovan Smith 
Tennessee Titans (2): Jack Crawford, DaQuan Jones
Washington Football Team (1): Troy Apke 

Safety Troy Apke brings down Buckeye receiver K.J. Hill – Steve Manuel/The Football Letter

Nittany Lions On NFL Coaching Staffs
Matt Rhule – Carolina Panthers Head Coach
Tom Bradley – Pittsburgh Steelers DBs Coach
Bobby Engram – Baltimore Ravens TEs Coach
Al Golden – Cincinnati Bengals LBs Coach
D’Anton Lynn – Houston Texans Secondary Coach
Mike Munchak – Denver Broncos OL Coach
Jeff Nixon – Carolina Panthers Senior Offensive Assistant
Bill O’Brien (Head Coach 2012-13) – Houston Texans Head Coach

The Football Letter Live: Week 2

This week’s episode of The Football Letter Live focuses on the Alumni Association’s affiliate group network and the inspiring efforts of Penn State volunteer leaders around the world.

Wow, that was fun.

That was the thinking after we wrapped up our inaugural episode of The Football Letter Live last Thursday night. More than a few thousand Penn Staters joined the conversation as CEO Paul Clifford and author John Black hosted this new online venture.

The weekly episodes will continue at 8 p.m. Thursdays this fall, and we’ll share a preview each week on the blog. As a reminder, fans can sign up online for the entire season of shows, which will also be livestreamed on the Alumni Association’s Facebook page.

Tonight, it’s all about our affiliate group network, always an appropriate topic for us to discuss at the Alumni Association.

Our network of about 300 alumni groups unite Penn Staters through shared interests, academic colleges, and geographic regions, and you can learn more during tonight’s show or at alumni.psu.edu/groups.

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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.

Incoming and current Penn State students competed in the annual water balloon tossing content during the North New Jersey Chapter’s sendoff picnic in July 2019. The chapter’s one of about 300 Alumni Association affiliate groups that unite Penn Staters around the world. Photo by John Patishnock

A New Era Begins

The Football Letter Live_social

You love Penn State football. Of course you do, there’s a lot to love. The Blue Band. The Nittany Lion. Tailgating. The roar of 107,000-plus fans screaming inside Beaver Stadium.

We just need to be patient until we experience that rush again. In the meantime, we’re doing what we can to help fill the void.

One option for fans is tuning in every Thursday night this fall at 8 p.m., when we’ll air our new online show, The Football Letter Live. Alumni Association CEO Paul Clifford ’20g and author of The Football Letter, John Black ’62 will co-host, with the duo sharing a preview of what fans can expect to see in that week’s edition of The Football Letter and discussing various areas of impact for the Alumni Association.

Fans can sign up online for the entire season of shows, which will also be livestreamed on the Alumni Association’s Facebook page.

Tonight’s episode launches the show with some info on what fans can expect and what we have in store this fall, along with commentary on the postponement of the season and what we’re hearing for alumni. Future shows will examine various areas of impact for the Alumni Association, and our alumni will play a significant role. We love sharing inspiring stories of how our alumni are making an impact, so stay tuned for what should be a fun season of shows.

We’ll send out a blog post every Thursday this fall with details on that evening’s show, and we’re encouraging fans to subscribe to the blog to stay updated. Fans can also submit questions ahead of time, and you can share your questions in the comment section of this post. We’ll be sure to pass them along and get to as many as we can during the show.

This fall isn’t what any of us were expecting, though we’re still talking Penn State football. So, tune in, let us know what you think, and hear from Nittany Lions every Thursday this fall.

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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.

Facing an Unfamiliar Fall

Beaver Stadium

Fans will have to wait until at least the spring to see their Nittany Lions play at Beaver Stadium, as Penn State prepares for a fall unlike any other in history. Photo by John Patishnock 

I’m incredibly spoiled.

That probably sounds like a strange way to start a column, though it’s something that I think of constantly. I’m also reminded of this on my daily run around the University Park campus. I grew up in the area, graduated from Penn State, and have plenty of memories of Beaver Stadium, both as a fan while growing up and also covering the team.

Since moving back to State College, I’ve spent the last seven years living in College Heights, right next to campus.

I’ve been a runner for a long time now, going back to my undergraduate days, and my current routine takes me up a few blocks along Atherton Street, where I cross at Park Avenue, and then run the entire length of Curtain Road.

I pass by the Nittany Lion Shrine, University Libraries (Pattee-Paterno), Palmer Museum of Art, and the Berkey Creamery. I keep going until I hit the T-intersection where Beaver Stadium intersects with Medlar Field at Lubrano Park, head to University Drive along Park, and then double back.

Many Penn Staters are able to return to campus only a few times a year. Usually during highly popular events such as the Blue-White Game, Arts Fest, Homecoming, and the seven home football games.

In many ways, this is a lost year for alumni and friends, though I don’t see it entirely that way. Of course, it’s easy for me to say that. Again, I’m spoiled. I have the opportunity to work for my alma mater and see the aforementioned legendary campus landmarks nearly every day.

With the Big Ten football season (and all fall sports) now officially canceled — the conference will regroup and see if the teams can pull off a spring season — Penn State faces a fall unlike anything we’ve ever experienced before.

Chances are pretty good the next four-plus months will go by slowly. Campus will probably have something of an eerie feeling at times. As a runner, sometimes it’s nice to feel like I have campus to myself, though I undoubtably miss the buzz that students and visitors create when they swarm back to Happy Valley.

While looking ahead, there are already a few things I believe I’ll remember from this year. And perhaps future generations will benefit, too. Anytime something seismic comes along that fundamentally shifts the way people live and work, and I think a global pandemic counts, changes are bound to happen.

  • Many Penn State football student-athletes speaking up and further realizing the influence they have, and how to positively wield that influence beyond the field. Among other leaders on the squad, team captain Sean Clifford posted a thoughtful message once the cancellation was announced. This followed up similar posts featuring hashtags #IWantToPlay and #IWantASeason, and also imploring fans to wear masks. You can scroll through the Twitter feeds of many of his teammates to find additional examples.
  • James Franklin continuing to be a strong advocate for student-athletes and further cement his status as one of the best coaches in the country, and one who’s not afraid to comment on important issues facing our society. Here’s a message he posted the day before the official cancellation announcement came out. When not saying anything is sometimes the easiest thing to do, it’s heartening to see our on-field leaders speak up.
  • Had the 2020 season continued in the fall, I strongly believe Penn State would’ve made the playoffs. I had this projection in place heading into 2019, and I saw last season unfolding like 1993, which led to the all-time great season of 1994. Just like 1993, the Nittany Lions had a few regular-season losses, though enjoyed a strong finish with an impressive bowl win. There was so much talent on the roster, and over the years, Franklin talks with more and more confidence about how this program is where he wants it to be. One example is agreeing to be highlighted on HBO’s 24/7 College Football program last season. The team had been approached with the request in previous years, though it wasn’t until last year’s campaign that Franklin said he felt comfortable enough to agree to it. How this year’s Penn State team would’ve fared probably will be a lively conversation topic among fans in the coming years.

One last thing I’ll remember: Never take anything for granted. Before this year, I knew I could always count on covering Penn State football in the fall, seeing hundreds of thousands of alumni and fans return to their collegiate home, and see campus come alive again after a laid-back summer.

I knew it. It would always happen. Until 2020.

So when Penn State football returns in 2021, I’ll savor it even more. Until then, I’ll settle for the welcoming views on my daily runs.

Timeless Collectibles

Coke bottles

Like many Penn Staters, I’m spending a lot more time at home lately. I’m fortunate to be able to work remotely, though there’s also been plenty of cooking, baking, and organizing around the house.

Which leads us to this past weekend.

I was helping my parents with some spring cleaning, when I uncovered three collectible Coca-Cola bottles from the 1980s, commemorating the team’s national championship in 1982.

I remember seeing them in my childhood home, and then understandably, I forgot about them. I always thought they were cool, in a sentimental type of way before so many aspects of sports became commercialized.

My parents thought the bottles were worth bringing to their State College home about 20 years ago, and I’m glad they did. We found them in a side closet in the walk-in pantry, behind cans of paint, various cleaning supplies, clothes, and even an old pair of shoes.

But the bottles were there, still unsealed and looking just as cool as ever.

I snapped a photo of the keepsakes on the kitchen counter and posted it to our Twitter account, asking if anyone else still had these bottles in their collection (similar bottles were also produced in 1986). I figured there’d be a handful of replies, maybe even a few dozen.

Instead, we received nearly 100 responses, and the post generated about 8,000 engagements.

Pretty good for a couple of old Coke bottles.

Many of the responses were detailed, with alumni and fans sharing photos of how and where their championship bottles are displayed in their homes. Just the latest example of Penn State fans displaying their passion.

So, that got us thinking: What other cherished items do Penn State fans have in their memorabilia collections?

Visit us on Facebook and Twitter and reply to our posts at the top of the page. We’re looking forward to seeing your responses, and maybe we’ll even see something new.

Of course, the classics are always good. And timeless.

The Significance of Sports

In the grand scheme of life, sports might be pretty insignificant. Then again, they’re very significant. 

In challenging times, sports have always been there to provide a sense of hope for me. A sense that however bad things might be in “the real world,” at least I’ve got a sport to play or a sport to watch. I’d imagine that’s the way it is for a lot of people around the country. 

As the difficult circumstances surrounding the COVID-19 virus continue and more sports leagues — professional and amateur — continue to suspend, postpone or cancel their season, it’s hard to fathom that sports, at least for a little while, won’t be there to help us get through the tough times. 

When news broke yesterday that the NCAA was canceling all of its remaining winter and spring sports — including the men’s and women’s basketball tournaments — I couldn’t help but feel an overwhelming sadness.

It was a tough decision, but probably the right decision. The seriousness of this pandemic, obviously, takes precedent. The health of the public is always going to be the top priority. 

That doesn’t make the pause on sports easier to stomach. 

I’m sad, above all, for the players, particularly senior student-athletes who will miss out on a proper conclusion to their college careers — for many of them, their athletic careers as a whole. 

As someone who was an athlete in high school, the end of my playing days were tough to take, but at the very least I got to end it on the basketball court and in the locker room with my teammates. 

It’s unfortunate, unfair really, that players like Lamar Stevens won’t get the ending they deserve. 

“I was really hurt,” Stevens said on a podcast earlier today with college basketball analyst, Jeff Goodman. “Being a senior, being a guy who hasn’t made the tournament in the previous three years and knowing that it was going to be a reality this year.”

Stevens ends his time in Happy Valley just seven points shy of passing Talor Battle to become the program’s all-time leading scorer, a feat he would have undoubtedly passed in the team’s scheduled Big Ten Tournament game against Indiana. 

“Not having any control over it was tough,” Stevens continued on Goodman’s podcast. “Being seven points away from becoming the school’s all-time leading scorer, my heart broke, honestly. I felt like I gave everything I had for this program and this school to get to that point.”

“I wanted to experience that with my teammates and our coaches. Have the Penn State community rally around us for something we haven’t done for nine years. I had a lot of excitement for that. It was something I was really proud of. To see it all end this way, it really hurts.”

As Stevens alluded to, he and the rest of the team miss out on hearing Penn State’s name pop up on CBS on Selection Sunday. The signal that the program’s near decade-long NCAA Tournament drought would be over. 

I think about senior members of the Penn State Wrestling team — the moments that Vincenzo Joseph and Mark Hall delivered on the mat in Rec Hall or at the Big Ten Championships or at the NCAA Championships. 

Joseph leaves a two-time NCAA Champion and three-time NCAA finalist. His thrilling upset as a freshman over No. 1 ranked Isaiah Martinez in 2017 ( he pinned the heavily favored Illini wrestler) is a signature moment in the already storied history of Penn State Wrestling. 

Hall ends his career a three-time Big Ten Champion, three-time NCAA finalist and the 2017 NCAA National Champion at 174 pounds. 

They both miss out on their shots to become national champions once more in 2020. 

There are senior members of the Penn State Men’s Hockey team, who have helped turn the program from Division I upstart to a Big Ten contender. 

Senior Liam Folkes delivered perhaps the greatest moment in the team’s young history. In 2017, he scored the game-winning breakaway goal against Wisconsin in double overtime of the Big Ten Tournament title game. 

The 10-man senior class of Brandon Biro, Folkes, Blake Gober, James Gobetz, Will Holtfoster, Peyton Jones, Kris Myllari, Nikita Pavylchev, Denis Smirnov and Nate Sucese, at the very least ended their college careers by capturing the Big Ten regular season title. 

But they won’t get the chance to capture another tournament crown or compete for Penn State’s first Frozen Four appearance. 

Despite a few early losses, the Men’s Lacrosse team had the talent and firepower to get back to the Final Four and win a national championship. Seniors like Grant Ament, Dylan Foulds and Mac O’Keefe are robbed of that opportunity. 

There are names I didn’t mention from the other Penn State winter and spring sports. For the sake of time, I can’t highlight them all specifically here, but there’s no diminishing their impact. They all made their mark in Penn State history. 

We will go on. Sports at Penn State and across the globe will resume sometime in the future. 

For the time being, though, we must get through all of this without sports to provide us that joy, provide us the hope.

We won’t have the power of Stevens driving to the hoop for a basket or the energy of Hall driving his opponent to the mat for a fall to take us away from the struggles. 

More importantly, the players themselves won’t ever get those kinds of experiences again in a Penn State uniform. 

The grind of the countless hours, days and even years that they’ve put in for their sport. For many of them, the chance to compete for a conference or national championship is the culmination of all of that hard work. The reward for the effort. 

It didn’t end on their terms. 

That’s the hardest part to swallow. The abrupt finality of it all. A tough way to be reminded of the significance of sports in difficult times.

The Indescribable Feeling

Photo Courtesy of Charlie Shuman

As far as the Penn State experience goes, it’s hard to top getting the opportunity to dance at Penn State THON for 46 hours.

Likewise, it doesn’t get much better than running through the stone-surrounded tunnel of Beaver Stadium and onto the field with 107,000 fans cheering you on. 

Letterman Charlie Shuman ’18, ’19g is one of the few Penn Staters to have experienced both. 

He played for coach James Franklin and the Nittany Lions from 2014-18. He danced in THON not once, but twice as a student in 2017 and 2018. 

“They’re two different things, but at the same time they both bring these emotions out of you,” Shuman said.  

It was always Shuman’s dream to play football at Penn State. 

Originally committed to Old Dominion, the 6-foot-8 offensive lineman elected to instead join the Nittany Lions as a walk-on, becoming a part of James Franklin’s first recruiting class in 2014. 

“Running out of the tunnel at Beaver Stadium on gameday for the first time, that was a dream come true for me,” Shuman said. “To put on the Penn State uniform, run through that tunnel to 107,000 screaming fans cheering for you, it’s special.” 

Photo courtesy of Charlie Shuman

Shuman’s other Penn State dream was to dance at THON, the world’s largest student-run philanthropy committed to enhancing the lives of children and families impacted by childhood cancer. 

He first got involved with the organization his freshman year at University Park, joining the Penn State Student Athlete Advisory Board’s (SAAB) THON committee, later serving as the committee’s fundraising chair. 

As his role grew with the THON committee, so too did that desire to become a dancer. 

In 2017, he finally realized the dream, representing SAAB on the dance floor with fellow members Carly Celkos (field hockey), Jessica O’Neill-Lyublinsky (women’s fencing) and Megan Schafer (women’s soccer). 

“Being down on the dance floor is just absolutely incredible. It’s indescribable to people that are outside of Penn State that don’t really know what THON is,” Shuman said. “You take away the memories you had with the other dancers that were down on the floor with you, spending 46 hours with. That group of people that were my dancing partners, it’s something that will carry with me for the rest of my life.”

Because the annual dance marathon takes place during winter workouts, Shuman had to coordinate his involvement as a dancer with his responsibilities as a football player. 

Not that he needed permission from Franklin and the other coaches in order to dance, but Shuman wanted to make sure the Penn State staff were cool with his involvement with THON and the rearranged schedule that came with it.

There wasn’t any hesitation in Franklin’s support for Shuman. 

“He was incredible with (his support),” Shuman said. “We’re going through the middle of winter workouts during THON, so some of our toughest offseason workouts. He was like ‘Absolutely. That’s an incredible opportunity. Take a day off or two here and there if you need to.’ And at the same time, he still wanted me to be around the (Lasch) Building when I could and still be a part of the workouts. He and the staff were just tremendous with their support.” 

The entire week leading up to THON in 2017 and 2018, Shuman said Franklin, the staff and other players were constantly checking in on him to send messages of encouragement. 

Photo courtesy of Charlie Shuman

Ahead of THON 2018, team members also sent over words of encouragement to Nick Scott ’19, Shuman’s teammate who was preparing to dance at THON for the first time. 

The dance floor experience was made that much better for Shuman, knowing a teammate would be right there beside him for the 46 hours. 

“It was a blast. I love Nick. Still today, we talk about that experience of dancing together,” Shuman said. “Obviously, when we danced together I had gone through it once before. It was my second time and his first time. So, I’d joke with him a little bit and rip on him to see if he could do some things better than I did. We had a blast down there. It’s cool to have a teammate down there, a guy you spend so much time with.” 

Before he graduated in December of 2018, Shuman helped make one more THON-related impact at Penn State. 

Through an initiative taken with Shuman, Scott and quarterback Trace McSorley ’18, Penn State football decided to make a change to the players’ iconic uniforms with the addition of the THON logo on the team helmets for a game with the Wisconsin Badgers in November of that year. 

The THON logo sticker was once again featured on the helmets during the 2019 season in a game against the Buffalo Bulls. 

“We wrote a letter to (Penn State Vice President for Intercollegiate Athletics) Sandy Barbour  and Coach Franklin. They were completely on board with it,” Shuman said. “You know, that’s a tough thing to navigate. Changing any part of the uniform can be difficult, especially at Penn State. They were completely on board with it, though, because it’s something Penn State students and student-athletes are passionate about.”

Ahead of the game against the Badgers in 2018, ESPN ran a segment on the decal and THON itself, something Shuman was particularly proud of because it spread the THON message to a larger audience.  

“To put that out there on a national stage like that, it’s the attention that THON deserves, really,” Shuman said. “The 40-odd years it’s been around, it deserves something like that. And hopefully it can keep growing.” 

Photo courtesy of Charlie Shuman

With his athletic career — and THON dancing days over — Shuman has since returned home to New York where he’s working on his doctorate in physical therapy at Nazareth College.  

He’s also helping coach varsity football at Pittsford Sutherland, his high school alma mater, keeping those football juices flowing as best he can now that he’s no longer suit up himself on Saturdays. 

The student experience at Nazareth isn’t quite the experience he got at Penn State. Nor is the experience of coaching football the same as running out of that Beaver Stadium tunnel as a player. 

“People outside of Penn State in general, I don’t think they realize how special it is,” Shuman said. 

“They don’t understand that atmosphere at Beaver Stadium. They don’t realize all of the incredible things that we get to experience as students. THON Weekend, especially. It’s something that’s about so much bigger than Penn State and to try and share that with the rest of the country is so important.”

Shuman will be returning to Happy Valley for THON Weekend 2020, supporting a friend of his who will now be dancing in THON for a third time. 

This past weekend, he also decided that he will shave his head and his beard if he can raise $1,000 dollars in THON donations by the time THON concludes on Sunday, Feb. 23, keeping that THON spirit alive even as an alumnus. 

“I haven’t shaved my face since probably my junior year of college,” Shuman said laughing. “We’ll see if I get there.”

Putting things in perspective

Nick Scott THON (2)

Penn State letterman and team captain Nick Scott danced in THON in 2018, saying that he was inspired to participate after meeting Four Diamonds families during the football team’s annual trip to the Penn State Children’s Hospital in Hershey. Photo credit: Nick Scott via Twitter.

Nick Scott ’19 still speaks with a sense of awe.

THON will do that, giving you a feeling of wonder that perhaps you can’t find anywhere else.

Scott knows that as well as anyone.

If you ever saw him on the football field, or anywhere on campus, chances are Scott was smiling. That was one of the things that stood out about him. Clearly, he loved playing football, and enjoyed being a student-athlete at Penn State.

For most people, that’d be enough. Not for Scott, though. Motivated by the football team’s annual trip to the Penn State Children’s Hospital in Hershey, Scott wanted to get involved with THON, the world’s largest student-run philanthropy. The annual event at the Bryce Jordan Center is the culmination of a year-round fundraising effort to fight pediatric cancer through research and awareness.

Scott danced at THON in 2018, along with teammate Charlie Shuman ’18, ’19g, saying the team’s trip to Hershey was a huge reason why he got involved. It was in Hershey where Scott first learned what Four Diamonds families go through and the sacrifices they make. He spent time with children going through strenuous battles and listened to their inspiring stories.

Seeing that on the forefront, as he described it, left an impression.

“That was one of my favorite times of the year,” he said last week. “In terms of college kids, we think we go through so much, but in retrospect, it’s nothing compared to what some people go through every day of their lives. Being able to meet people and hear their stories, it motivated me to want to do more to help others with all they may be going through.”

Scott is on the other side of the country now, pursuing a professional football career after the Los Angeles Rams selected him in the seventh round of the 2019 NFL Draft. He talked about his time with THON after a morning workout, saying what he remembers most about dancing is how much of an emotional experience it was.

“You start thinking about how young these kids are and all the things that they go through on a day-to-day basis, yearly basis, and just the strength of the families and the support system they have,” he said. “It creates an extremely high sense of community and love for one another. It just puts things in perspective.”

191208_RamsSeahawks_WN_5170

Scott appeared in all 16 games for the Los Angeles Rams in 2019, recording eight tackles and also catching a pass for 23 yards. Photo credit: Will Navarro/Rams.

Scott knows a little something about perseverance, too, albeit in a little different way.

He arrived at Penn State as a running back, and then shifted to the defensive backfield during Saquon Barkley’s highlight-fueled freshman season — Scott once endearingly said, “I tell people all the time, there’s 26 reasons I moved to safety.”

Scott emerged as a standout in the secondary for Penn State, excelling on special teams, too, and earning distinction as a team captain. He was a leader in multiple ways, humble and eager to contribute any way he could. Some players might’ve been stubborn and not wanted to switch positions, for example, while Scott turned the situation into a positive on his way to the NFL.

He scooped a fumble and scored a touchdown against Indiana in 2017 when the Hoosier returner botched a punt, a good example of how Scott always seemed prepared to make a play when called upon. He also sealed a win against Wisconsin a year later with a last-minute interception.

Looking back on this past season for Penn State, Scott jokingly recalled watching the team’s season opener and sounding astonished that the team kept playing — “I was watching the TV, and thought, ‘Dang, even though I left, they still really do go on without you.’”

It was a weird feeling for Scott, who added, “I feel a huge amount of pride for the guys, I know how hard they work, day in and day out,” rattling off a long list of former teammates and defensive backfield mates, including Journey Brown, KJ Hamler, Garrett Taylor, Jonathan Sutherland, Lamont Wade, and others.

“I always look forward to supporting those guys and watching them play,” Scott said. “I think Penn State fans and alumni and lettermen can be excited for what’s in store with Coach Franklin at the helm the next couple of years. We were good this year, but I think this coming season, we can have even more young talent that’ll be old. So, I’m really looking forward to what we got in the future.”

As Scott alluded to, he’s still very much connected to Penn State. That’ll continue next month, when he attends The Hope Gala, an annual THON fundraiser founded by the Alumni Association’s New York City Chapter. Both he and Shuman will be there, with Todd Blackledge ’83 emceeing the event on March 21 at Gotham Hall.

Tickets can be purchased online and include dinner, dancing, and a silent auction.

It’s not surprising that Scott continues to make time for Penn State, and specifically for THON. He was friendly and cordial on the phone, and he spoke with enthusiasm and appreciation for his time in Happy Valley.

“I’m always up for talking some Penn State,” he said, “it takes me back.”

This week, all eyes turn to the BJC.

“It’s really beautiful how so many young people can come together for such a great cause, especially at a time like this, where a lot of people see this generation as so self-centered,” Scott said. “To see kids pouring their hearts out for other families and students and children is pretty amazing. It’s a great feeling, and it definitely enhances the Penn State experience.”