Happy Birthday to Us

This season marks 80 years since Ridge Riley ’32 debuted The Football Letter as a way to keep far-flung Penn State alumni up to date with the week-to-week results of the Nittany Lion football team. It also marks a much more modest anniversary: Five years ago this week, we launched the online presence you’re reading now, expanding the Football Letter brand for the social media age.

While John Black ’62 gears up for his 43rd season as editor of the Football Letter, we thought it might be a good time to share some highlights from the blog. Here’s our pick of our five favorite stories from the past five years.

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The Legends of ’94

Our epic, five-part oral history of the unbeaten 1994 Nittany Lions features exclusive interviews with Kerry Collins ’94, Ki-Jana Carter ’95, Bobby Engram ’95, Jeff Hartings ’95, Tom Bradley ’78, Fran Ganter ’71, and many others. A fun and revealing look back at arguably the greatest offense in college football history.

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Spider Caldwell Comes Home

Nobody better personifies the loyalty, integrity and pride of Penn State football than Brad “Spider” Caldwell ’86, the longtime football equipment manager who left Happy Valley in 2014 for semi-retirement in Vermont. A health scare and the pull of the place he’d called home for so long brought him back to Beaver Stadium in a new role. Now, he’s here to stay.

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Getting Back in the Game

A freak practice injury four years ago cost Ryan Keiser his football career—and nearly his life. The untold story of how family, teammates, and faith helped him come back.

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Max Hamilton Gets in the Zone

The most fun we’ve ever had on the blog: Max Hamilton, proud mother of DaeSean ’16, had long dreamed of watching a game from the S-Zone, the raucous section in Beaver Stadium’s south end zone organized by the Alumni Association’s Lion Ambassadors. We made it happen for the 2016 home finale against Michigan State. And yes, she had a blast.

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All in the Family

James Franklin often speaks of the Penn State players, coaches, and staff as a “family,” and part of embracing that idea is making the the players’ actual families feel as much a part of the program as possible. Thanks to a number of particularly dedicated parents, that family support is an integral part of the program’s success. For the parents themselves, the tailgates and road trips mean it’s also just a lot of fun.

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There’s plenty more in our blog archives, and plenty more to look forward to as the Nittany Lions kick off the 2018 season. Thanks for following along with us here, and on Twitter. We Are.

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

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John Black and “The Blood Bowl”

JB Blood Bowl

As he starts his 40th season in charge of The Football Letter, we look back at the time John Black starred on the field in Penn State’s biggest rivalry.

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It was a legendary performance made all the more impressive given the injury that almost kept him out of action.

According to the pregame write-up in the Nov. 25, 1958 issue of The Daily Collegian, quarterback “Joltin’ Johnny” Black suffered—and we warn you, this is difficult reading—an “acute hangnail on the third finger of his throwing hand.” Continue reading

From The Archives: Wisconsin

Photo by Steve Manuel

Photo by Steve Manuel

“The cheers and excitement in that final post-game locker room were as loud and jubilant as any in Beaver Stadium history, because these loyal, dedicated Penn Staters had competed for something more important than a bowl game or conference title. They had competed for the honor of their team and their university.” Continue reading

From The Archives: Minnesota

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Allen Robinson’s stunning displays in recent weeks have Penn State fans wondering where he ranks among the best receivers in program history. A look back at the Nittany Lions’ first meeting with Minnesota—20 years ago this fall—reminds us that in any such conversation, Bobby Engram’s name must be prominently included. Continue reading