Social Media Milestone

Penn Staters packed Old Main Lawn when ESPN’s College Game Day visited in September for the White Out against Auburn. Having the wildly popular show broadcast from University Park provided multiple opportunities to capture and share enduring moments on The Football Letter’s platforms. Photo credit: John Patishnock

Something cool happened the other day.

I was looking at the analytics for our Football Letter Twitter account, and I saw that for September, we surpassed a million impressions in the month.

“We” is the appropriate word here, as I’m fortunate to work with an inspiring and impressive group of colleagues. Between a team of writers, graphic designers, and website gurus — that’s not an official title, though I’ve learned it’s an apt description, as it seems like whenever an obstacle arises, a solution follows soon after — there’s a lot that goes on behind the scenes. 

And of course, John Black and Steve Manuel continue to provide coverage as only they can. 

What’s posted to our Twitter account is the final step of a lot of planning, working, editing, and sometimes traveling. Whenever we arrive at a hotel, my first two questions are always, “What’s the WiFi password?” and “How strong is the connection?”

As alumni know, we’ve expanded The Football Letter in the last year, airing a live, weekly online show — Football Letter Live — and sending a game day email that’s packed with videos, photos, and stories. Add in our video coverage, and there are now more ways for Penn Staters to stay connected to the football program through The Football Letter than ever before.

Sharing videos that transport Penn Staters onto the field at Beaver Stadium is one way that The Football Letter continues the original vision of Ridge Riley — and continued by John Black — to be the eyes and ears for alumni at games.

Of course, there’s another group that I need to mention: our Penn State alumni audience. We don’t reach that number without alumni and friends following us and sharing our posts. 

Above all, we hope you find value in our coverage. If you’re not at Beaver Stadium on game day, we want to make you feel like you were. If you’re in the stands, we want to make you feel like you were on the field

It’s all about recording and sharing enduring moments. Sometimes that’s in the form of videos, other times with photos, and still other times with John Black’s historic perspective. Through our twice-weekly emails, we combine all these aspects and add in some sharp graphics and features on our blog that readers hopefully find compelling. And it’s delivered right to your inbox, with no need to go searching.

We also updated our Football Letter landing page, which shares historical information on the publication, along with details on how to access past issues, another member benefit.

James Franklin rocking a fedora while celebrating with fans after a season-opening win at Wisconsin is just one example of the types of enduring moments we aim to share with Penn Staters.

Again, thank you for watching, reading, listening, and sharing. We hope to continue to grow our audience, and current Penn Staters who enjoy The Football Letter will play a pivotal role. If you know somebody who likes Penn State football — and we have a feeling that you do — go ahead and encourage them to give us a follow on Twitter or visit our landing page to learn more.

Of course, our audience grows simultaneously with our membership. If you’re not a member of the Alumni Association, you’re always welcome to visit alumni.psu.edu/join to become part of the Pride anytime you like. You’ll receive 30-plus benefits, including all The Football Letter emails throughout the season, and a whole lot more.

Lastly, if you have a story idea or know of a letterman or alumni volunteer who embodies the Success With Honor mantra, let me know at jmp411@psu.edu. We’re always happy to hear stories of Penn State alumni, and we look forward to sharing lots more this season and beyond. 

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Making An Entrance

Thousands of Penn Staters routinely welcome James Franklin and the Nittany Lions prior to each home game at Beaver Stadium. If you want to attend team arrival this season, it’s usually 2.5 hours before kickoff and features performances from the Blue Band, Nittany Lion, Penn State Cheerleaders, and Lionettes. Photo credit: John Patishnock

For a moment, James Franklin morphed into Bil Keane.

If the latter name sounds vaguely familiar, it’s for good reason. Keane was a cartoonist best known for his drawings of The Family Circus. The comic strip debuted in 1960 and remains in circulation to this day, with Keane’s son, Jeff, continuing the series. According to the comic’s publisher, The Family Circus is the most widely circulated comic in the world, appearing in over 1,500 newspapers.

OK, so what does all this have to do with Franklin and Penn State football?

Turns out, there is a connection. Sort of. Kind of. Just stick with me for a moment (please).

In a popular recurring theme of the comic strip, one of the children, Billy, takes a circuitous path to go a short distance, with a dotted line detailing his route. You can see one example in this NPR article.

That’s the image that sprung to mind as Franklin explained how exactly the Nittany Lions get to the stadium for team arrival after leaving the hotel. To hear Franklin’s description, you can watch today’s press conference. Jump to the 31:40 mark to hear my question — which focused on the moment when the Blue Buses pulled up the stadium — and Franklin’s response.

Listening to Franklin’s explanation is the best way to get the whole story, and here are a few notes:

— the team buses wind through campus, and the route is much longer than I previously thought;

— there’s a tailgating crew that Franklin sees each home game on the way to the stadium, with him saying, “They’re playing corn hole and having a good time, and they usually give us a big cheer when we go by.”

— in describing the the buses’ path, Franklin acknowledged: “to be honest, I don’t know any names of streets in State College”; it was a somewhat funny moment, and you’ll want to check it out, as the team’s media staff helped the head coach name the streets on the fly.

Starting at the beginning — like Franklin did with his response — makes sense, because by doing so, you gain full appreciation for what the moment is like when the team arrives at the stadium, where the area’s packed with family, friends, and alumni.

 “It’s another opportunity for our players to see their parents one more time, their loved ones, before we go in,” Franklin said. “They usually have the stage set up there, and the band and cheerleaders, and it’s really cool. Then, I do my lap.

“I think it’s a great way to start the game experience, and you get a pretty good sense pretty early on from the time we leave the hotel of what type of environment it’s going to be in Beaver Stadium.”

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‘First-class product’

The enhancements stood out immediately.

The blue concert-like directional lighting. The glistening new paint job. The rather enormous 1-0 banner. They all smack you in the face, metaphorically speaking. All these changes (i.e., improvements) were installed in the Beaver Stadium south tunnel before the Nittany Lions’ home opener against Ball State on Sept. 11.

The south tunnel is off-limits to nearly all fans, though it doubles as one of the most prime pieces of real estate in the entire stadium.

Why?

For one: every single recruit who has field access passes through the tunnel. I think it’s a pretty safe assumption that each of them is imagining what it’d be like to run through that tunnel on game day when they’re playing college ball. In James Franklin’s best-case scenario, those recruits are playing for Penn State.

Another reason: The upgrades make for pretty darn good television. Franklin mentioned ESPN and ABC when discussing the enhancements, saying the team wanted to clean up those images a bit. Not that the images looked bad before, but slapping on a new coat of paint and installing those lights adds a ton of production value. You can see an up-close view with the above video, which shows Franklin and the team heading toward the field prior to kickoff Saturday night.

And going back to the recruits. Nearly all of them — and most of their family members — are holding up a phone recording the action. Whether it’s a visiting high school player, a returning letterman, someone watching on television, or a current player or coach, the visual impact hits.

“We just want to make sure that everything we do, we’re presenting Penn State in a way that everybody looks at and says, ‘That’s first class and that’s sharp and that’s impressive,’ and that was another opportunity to do it that way,” Franklin said. “So when the eyes of the world — specifically the sports world — are on us, that everything that people see and associate with Penn State is first class and creative and fun and represents our brand the right way. I feel like that does right now.” 

Franklin continued:

“For our players, it’s a very short walk but I think they feel it too, they sense it as well. We want a first-class product. We want to make sure that we’re treating everybody in a first-class way on the front end, and I think we probably have more alignment with those types of things than we’ve ever had.”

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Weekend Party

Penn State football All-American linebacker Brandon Short enjoyed the sights with his family Friday evening in downtown State College. The two-time team captain and current member of the Penn State Board of Trustees welcomed the crowd of Penn Staters at a welcome pep rally on Fraser Street ahead of tomorrow’s home opener against Ball State, telling the alumni and fans in attendance that their support during games and year-round truly makes a difference. Photo credit: John Patishnock

Ah yes, this feels familiar.

Friday evening in downtown State College. In the fall. Ahead of the football home opener.

Has it really only been 18 months? It feels longer. No difference, that’s not important. What is important is that we’re less than 24 hours away from a fresh season of Penn State football, and along with it, the Blue Band, the Nittany Lion, Penn State Cheerleaders, Lionettes, 107,000-plus fans roaring at Beaver Stadium, and so much more.

The aforementioned spirit teams kicked off the weekend in style, dazzling Penn Staters on Fraser Street during an early-evening pep rally. I can’t recall if this is something new or if the Friday downtown pep rally was done before, though if it becomes a tradition ahead of every home game, that’s just fine with me.

In addition to men’s and women’s hoops coaches Micah Shrewsberry and Carolyn Kieger, Penn State football All-American linebacker Brandon Short also welcomed the crowd. He and his family are back living in Happy Valley, where he remains committed to Penn State by serving on the University’s Board of Trustees.

Before the cheer teams performed at the pep rally, they greeted visitors and drivers along College Avenue. Horns honked, cheers were heard, and the Nittany Lion delighted pretty much anyone nearby. Check out the photos and videos below. They tell the story best.

For everyone in town this weekend: safe travels, enjoy the game, and let’s also enjoy celebrating being in Happy Valley together once again. It’s been far too long.

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Leading With Emotion

This is the fun part. After all the preparation, all the early mornings and late nights, all the meetings and film sessions and everything else that transforms coaching into a 24-hour-a-day marathon, James Franklin wanted to let loose. He’s apt to do this after victories, and for good reason.

He’s an emotional guy. He’s acknowledged multiple times in the past, embraces it. This who he is. Why run from it or hide it?

So, after Penn State knocked off the 12th-ranked team in the nation on the road on Saturday afternoon, the Penn State head coach went looking for fans to celebrate with. He didn’t have to go far, just to the first few rows of Camp Randall Stadium, home of the Wisconsin Badgers.

The video above shows Franklin sharing his exuberance with alumni and fans who converged on Madison this past weekend. I asked him about this earlier today during his weekly press conference, and specifically, how big of a role does emotion play in his approach to coaching, especially when it comes to connecting with fans, players, and players’ families.

Here’s what he said:

“I think it’s a huge part of my leadership style with our players and how we meet, how we lead, how we bond as coaches and players. I think it’s a big part. It’s my personality, my style, and I have to be authentic and true to who I am in my leadership role.”

If you’re fortunate to be in the first few rows after a Penn State football win, chances are good you’ll get to celebrate with James Franklin up close. Photo credit: Steve Manuel

Franklin referenced the recruiting process with senior star wideout Jahan Dotson, who caught five passes for 102 yards and a touchdown against Wisconsin. “Getting to know his family well and understanding the successes and challenges and adversity we all go through in our families, being a part of that is meaningful to me and important to me,” Franklin said.

The head coach also mentioned receiving a text message from Nittany Lion standout quarterback Trace McSorley earlier this morning. Point being: connections are important, perhaps just as important as anything else, and creating and maintaining those connections is critical.

Some fans Franklin knows well, some he recognizes. Either by a prior meeting, or sometimes from the wardrobe. Looks matter after all, and if you dress the part, Franklin will notice.

“The gentlemen with the white fedora on Saturday. I don’t know him very well, but I see him at all the games. I feel his passion. I appreciate his passion. He’s also handsomely dressed usually, and I appreciate all those things. When there is an opportunity to connect and show my passion and appreciation for them as well, because they’re a part of our family and process, I want them to feel that as well.”

P.S. The fan rocking the fedora is Cameron Panase, who graduated last year and was the president of Nittanyville during his senior season.

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From the Archives

Beaver Stadium, as seen during halftime of a game in 1968. If you look closely, you can see the Blue Band performing. Photo credit: Penn State.

Ever since this blog’s beginning nearly a decade ago, we’ve had a recurring feature called “From the Archives,” featuring previous game summaries authored by Ridge Riley ’32 and John Black ’62. You can read our entire collection of From the Archives stories on the blog.

The main reasons for the series were to highlight our rich archives and showcase lettermen from previous generations. We’re continuing the series, though in a different way. Instead of a weekly blog story, we’ll have regular posts on The Football Letter Twitter account, and you can see recent examples of John Cappelletti, Curt Warner, and John Urschel, just to name a few.

One of the reasons for the transition is that with the addition of Football Letter Live, we’re routinely featuring lettermen each week, and we’re now able to include standalone images and expand the photo collection we can pull from. Another example includes this aerial photo of Beaver Stadium from 1968. The image is from this Penn State Flickr gallery, and we’ll share other photos from the collection this season.

I’m a member of several Penn State-themed Facebook groups (OK, probably all of them), and I regularly see compelling images from Penn State football’s past. There may be occasions when I’ll ask to run that photo on the blog and our social accounts, and we’ll always do everything we can to give appropriate photo credit. We’re not looking to monetize anything, just focus on the rich tradition of Penn State football.

Have a compelling photo from your personal archives, or a family photo you’d like to share? Send it to jmp411@psu.edu with the subject line “From the Archives” and we may feature it in the future.

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Updated Landing Spot

Capturing the sights from game day has been a key component of The Football Letter for a long time. Check out the updated Football Letter landing page for more information about the member benefit. Photo credit: Steve Manuel

One of our favorite and most popular episodes of Football Letter Live last season featured our legendary team of editor John Black ’62 and photographer Steve Manuel ’82, ’92g. The duo discussed the way they approach covering the football team and the in-depth collaboration that goes into each edition of The Football Letter.

There were also plenty of laughs.

As someone who’s been incredibly fortunate to travel and work with both John and Steve over the years, I’ve gotten to know them a little bit. Their tireless dedication has been inspiring to see, as there have been many early mornings, late nights, rental cars, and connecting flights. Through it all, you always get the sense there’s no place else they’d rather be or anything else they’d rather be doing, and that enthusiasm makes a difference. In a lot of ways, their passion comes through in The Football Letter, and I’m confident many alumni and fans would agree with me.

There’s a lot of thought, energy, and effort that goes on behind the scenes, and on the episode, they shared some memories and stories, along with many of Steve’s most memorable photos. If you missed the episode or want to check it out again, you can see it on our YouTube page.

Along these lines, we recently updated The Football Letter landing page, thanks to some wonderful team members we have at the Alumni Association who oversee and maintain our website. The updated page shares more about John and Steve, along with links for additional stories and details on the two and their accomplishments. There’s also some info on Ridge Riley ’32, who started The Football Letter in 1938. Ridge’s achievements were so vast that University Libraries has a collection of his papers on file.

Stay tuned this fall for more of everything you enjoy about The Football Letter. The season opener will be here before you know it.

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Playing Through A Pandemic

In a sign of the times, running back Devyn Ford rushed for a touchdown in an empty stadium during Penn State’s 23-7 win at Rutgers last Saturday. It was the first game back for Ford since he missed a game after a death in his family, the latest example of how many players and coaches have made sacrifices and overcome adversity this season. (Photo by Penn State Athletics)

Everyone involved with Penn State football has made sacrifices to ensure this season could be played. Having that opportunity was (and is) critically important to all the players, especially the seniors.

After the fall season was postponed, and then restarted, defensive coordinator Brent Pry was asked if he could tell whether or not the uncertainty was taking an emotional toll on the players.

“Shoot, man, it was wearing on everyone,” he said, laughing a bit, perhaps out of relief that there’d be games. And there have been games. Penn State, in fact, is one of a handful of teams in the Big Ten that has played its entire abbreviated schedule, a testament to how well everyone in the program has adapted and adhered to the COVID-19 restrictions.

Beyond all the challenges that the team is dealing with that are somewhat typical across the country — and believe me, I know using the word “typical” in reference to 2020 sounds bizarre — the Nittany Lions have also dealt with players facing false positive tests during the week, not having all coaches available at each practice, and not enjoying the usual Senior Day recognitions.

At Penn State, families are allowed to be in the stadium but can’t be on the field to share the usual hugs with their sons before the game. It’s a moment that moms, dads, brothers, and sisters have looked forward to for four or five years, and now it’s not going to happen in the way they were hoping.

There has also been heartbreak, as emerging sophomore running back Devyn Ford missed the game against Michigan because of a death in his family. He returned last weekend to help Penn State earn a 23-7 victory at Rutgers, rushing for 65 yards and a touchdown.

“I mean, it’s just like family,” Ford said Saturday after the game, describing what it was like returning to the Penn State football program and receiving feedback from his teammates and coaches.

“They were around me, just consoling me, giving me that love, and I definitely needed it at that time. Everyone faces adversity, so you’ve just got to keep pushing. But it was definitely helpful for them to put their arm around me and be the brothers that they are and be the coaches and the men that they are, actually care for somebody else. It was good.”

Other players have seen COVID-19 hit their families, with running back Noah Cain sharing earlier this fall that multiple family members contracted and overcame the virus. James Franklin said there are other examples of players and people in the program going through adversity behind the scenes. He’s understandably reluctant about sharing details, deferring instead to the players themselves to share what they’re comfortable with. The main point being that what happens on the field each Saturday is usually the result of a lot of unseen work and overcoming challenges that don’t always become common knowledge.

Add in Journey Brown medically retiring for a health-related issue separate from COVID, Cain and Pat Freiermuth suffering season-ending injuries, other players getting hurt, knowing every week that your game might be canceled, and it’s been a lot. And it’s been a lot to endure under once-in-a-lifetime circumstances, faced now with the rest of the student body having already returned home in time for the Thanksgiving holiday and upcoming winter break.

James Franklin has coached this season without the in-person support of his wife, Fumi, and their two daughters, Shola and Addison, as his family is staying out of town because Addison has sickle cell disease, which has her more susceptible to COVID-19. This week, Franklin said: “I can’t tell you what I would do for a hug from my wife and daughters.” (Photo by Steve Manuel)

“A lot of these families and a lot of these young men are having to do this on their own without the normal support that they normally would be able to get or provide,” Franklin said Tuesday during his weekly press conference. “The team’s been really good about it. All the way back to the beginning of the season with us losing players, there’s been a lot of emotional swings that the team has had to handle, and in a lot of ways, I’m really proud of them.”

Later on, Franklin was asked if all the sacrifices made by everyone have been worth it to play this season. It was a simple and straight-forward inquiry. And also complicated. And ultimately, perhaps impossible to answer.

“That’s a good question,” Franklin said, hesitating a bit before beginning his response.

Sometimes, a moment or two of silence says a lot.

“Right now, in the heat of it all, it’s hard to answer that,” Franklin said. “Because to me, I’m not just looking at football, I’m looking at the whole picture. When all these decisions were made, it was hard to predict on how this was going to play out. I mean, you look at the Big Ten in general, you look at the records in the Big Ten, there’s been a few programs who have been able to do it, but I don’t know if there’s ever been a year like this in the Big Ten from a competitive standpoint, pretty much across the board.”

“It’s hard to predict, and to be honest with you, I think we’re still in a position where it’s hard to predict what the future holds, when this is going to end, when is this going to change, when are we going to get back to normal. … It’s been tough, I will tell you this, I can’t tell you what I would do for a hug from my wife and daughters.”

Franklin’s wife, Fumi, and their two daughters, Shola and Addison, are staying out of town during the season because Addison has sickle cell disease, a blood disorder that has her more susceptible to COVID-19. Franklin would love to find a way to have his family visit him in State College, though as he said, that’s especially difficult because there isn’t a nearby medical center that can handle sickle cell.

That’s Franklin’s personal story, he said, and there are as many as 150 others in the program. His message was it’s not about him, it’s about the team. Sometimes fans hear about some of those other stories. Sometimes they don’t. Either way, the stories are still there. And they matter.

“Although we haven’t had the success on the field this year that we want … I also think there’s been some really good examples as well of this team sticking together, of this team battling back at a time when other programs aren’t; with guys opting out and those types of things and our guys haven’t done that, they’ve continued to battle,” Franklin said.

“There’s been some cracks that have been exposed through this pandemic, but there’s also been tremendous resiliency. I know this sounds strange, and I don’t want this to be misinterpreted, but I’m also proud of that. I’m also proud of how we have battled a lot of adversity and a lot of challenges.”

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Giving Thanks

James Franklin takes a pregame lap before every game at Beaver Stadium, when he thanks stadium personnel and fans for their support. (Photo by Penn State Athletics, taken in 2018)

The game day atmosphere at Beaver Stadium for the team arrival is truly incredible. Thousands of fans, many of whom rose early and have been tailgating for hours, line Curtin Road and the adjacent areas to welcome James Franklin and the Nittany Lions to the stadium.

The team exits the Blue Buses outside Medlar Field at Lubrano Park and walk toward the tunnel, with fans facing them on both sides of Curtin. It’s similar to team arrival across the SEC, a new tradition that Franklin brought with him from Vanderbilt. It’s been a smash hit.

Music is booming. The Nittany Lion, Penn State Cheerleaders, and Lionettes preform. A stage is set up near the tunnel, and fans cover every inch of grass and pavement on the south size of the stadium.

But then the environment changes once Franklin walks through the tunnel and makes his way onto the field, where he embarks on one of his lesser-known traditions: He takes a pregame lap around Beaver Stadium, and along the way, he thanks stadium personnel and fans for their support. He’ll shake hands, share fist bumps, and give hugs. Occasionally, someone asks for an autograph, and Franklin usually obliges.

This hospitality also extends to the TV crews who are there prepping for the telecast, the Penn State Cheerleaders, and really anyone else he sees. Before last year’s game against Michigan, Franklin even welcomed two Wolverine fans dressed in maize and blue who somehow found their way into the stadium early.

His daughters, Shola and Addison, typically accompany their dad and join him in sharing thanks and gratitude. For the folks in the upper deck, the young girls will shout “We Are.”

Compared to outside, which sounded like a rock concert a few minutes before, the atmosphere on the field is markedly different. The stadium is nearly entirely empty. The PA system is silent. Once he arrives at the stadium, this might be the last few moments of anything resembling solitary and quiet for the head football coach on game day.

It’d be easy (and maybe even understandable) for Franklin to bypass everyone he sees. After all, there are only a certain number of game days each year, each a looming report card that assesses the team’s progress. There are probably hundreds of thoughts going through his mind on one of the biggest days of the year for his team, though taking the time to give a simple “thank you” is a point of emphasis for Franklin because of his upbringing, he said.

Franklin was raised by a single mother, who worked as both a hall aid and as a janitor at his high school in the suburbs of Philadelphia. And in recent weeks, as the team struggled through an 0-5 start, Franklin talked about recognizing the blessings that he has in his life.

In a way, Franklin was saying this: During a year when nothing is typical and everything has been unexpected, it’s important to remember who you are, what you’ve accomplished, and where you’ve come from.

Just this week, he said that this team is still the Cotton Bowl champs, Fiesta Bowl champs, and Big Ten champs.

This year doesn’t change any of that.

And while his pregame lap isn’t the same, either, that foundational belief in recognizing teamwork hasn’t changed, either.

“I think it was really, pretty much, how I was raised. I’ve just always been taught to treat people the way you would want to be treated and thank people and show appreciation and have manners and say, ‘Yes sir and no sir, and thank you and you’re welcome,’” Franklin said. “Whether it’s Penn State football or any other industry, it takes a lot of people to make the machine go, it takes a lot of people. So, when I walk around Beaver Stadium and I see all those people working there so that we can have a great game day environment and that the people can be safe and orderly and all those types of things, it’s an opportunity for me to do that. It’s an opportunity for me to thank them.”

“I’ve always taken a lap; it’s usually been with my daughters. Obviously, right now, that’s not an option, and it’s somewhat strange and somewhat surreal, walking around the stadium each week and there’s nobody in there. But again, this is what 2020 is, and (I) try to stick to my normal routine and still try to find some times to think about the blessings that we do have and thinking about the people in our lives and the impact that hopefully we’re making.”

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‘Powerful’ Adam Taliaferro Special to Air on BTN

In one of the most inspiring moments in Beaver Stadium history, Adam Taliaferro walked onto the field prior to the team’s season opener in 2001. (Photo by Penn State)

An inspiring member of the Penn State football family will be featured tonight on The Big Ten Network.

The station will air a one-hour special titled, “The B1G Moment: Adam Taliaferro” this evening at 7. BTN will re-air the special multiple times, including 1 p.m. on Wednesday, 6 p.m. on Thursday and 3 p.m. on Friday. Fans can find more listings at btn.com/shows.

Many fans are familiar with Taliaferro’s incredible journey. As a true freshman, he suffered a life-threatening spinal cord injury at Ohio State in 2000, absorbing a hit that left him with no movement in his extremities from his neck down.

He was given a 3 percent chance to ever walk again.

That 3 percent came through in a big way, as Taliaferro jogged onto the Beaver Stadium field less than a year later, before Penn State’s home opener against Miami (Fla.).

Chuck Kimball was the Nittany Lion mascot that game, and Kimball talked about that experience earlier this season on The Football Letter Live. He even has the jersey that Taliaferro wore that evening. You can watch the episode online, with Kimball talking about Taliaferro beginning around the 30-minute mark.

We also spoke with letterman Justin Kurpeikis last year. Kurpeikis talked about the game following the Ohio State contest in 2000, an emotionally charged home victory over a Purdue team led by future Hall-of-Famer Drew Brees.

Today, James Franklin talked about Taliaferro’s impact during his weekly news conference. The head coach had an opportunity to see the video ahead of time, leading him to call Taliaferro and share how much he enjoyed watching the special.

“As you guys know, I’m an emotional guy,” Franklin said. “Actually, Michael Hazel (senior director of football operations) and Nacho (Jim Natchman, assistant AD, media and video production) sent that to me last week before it was public. I got the hot peek at it and got emotional watching it. I called Adam and Adam hadn’t seen it yet, and I just told him, I said, ‘You’re going to love this thing. It is powerful.’”

Franklin continued:

“I think Adam represents everything that Penn State is all about. It’s interesting, the other thing that kind of hit home for me watching that is the challenges that that team had that season and the timing of it all (Taliaferro ran onto the Beaver Stadium field 10 days before 9/11). So, I had a really good conversation with Adam. He’s been phenomenal, not only with his time as an undergraduate student here, and how the Penn State community rallied around him and behind him is special. I know that at a point, Adam was on the board of trustees here, and he’s very successful back in New Jersey. I’m a big Adam fan and we couldn’t be more proud of him, and I think everybody’s going to love the show. And I strongly recommend, again, everybody take an hour and watch that and get away from your frustrations with other things right now.”

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