College Football Heaven

Penn State v. Michigan(Photo by Steve Manuel)

The Football Letter/Steve Manuel

This weekend, tens of thousands of alumni and fans will return to State College, rekindling a lifelong love affair with Penn State. If you’re among the many who are embarking upon the annual fall pilgrimage to Happy Valley, chances are you’ll notice some changes upon arrival.

Construction is ongoing at Willard Building for the state-of-the-art Donald P. Bellisario Media Center, and you can check out picturesque views of Sparks and West Halls from the newly renovated Collaboration Commons in Pattee Library. These remodeled areas have the aim to enhance the student experience, an admirable goal that’s always at the forefront of University administrators’ minds.

The Diner is gone — quite literally — as development has already begun on its replacement, a fast-casual restaurant chain. And if you’re looking to order some wings at The Darkhorse Tavern, well, you’ll have a surprise waiting for you.

These are just a few examples.

However, there’s one thing you can always count on when you come into town for the season opener.

As you stroll across campus or head downtown, the crisp fall-like weather smacks your senses and leaves no doubt: Penn State football has returned to Happy Valley.

That’s the beauty of September (or in this case, August) in Central Pennsylvania.

Penn State v. PITT (Photo by Steve Manuel)

The Football Letter/Steve Manuel

The town takes on a life of its own and the familiar energy swirls around State College, as the season’s first kickoff awaits on the horizon.

Football, of course, is the reason for alumni and fans descending upon University Park this weekend, as the chase for another 10-win campaign and Big Ten championship begins for James Franklin and the Nittany Lions.

The on-field success is one reason for so much excitement surrounding the upcoming season. Additionally, what makes Penn State football special for so many goes way beyond what happens on the gridiron.

Tailgating. The Blue Band. Stopping by the Nittany Lion Shrine for a photo with family and friends. Each home game weekend is a throwback to your college days, an opportunity to transport yourself back to a time when Dear Old State molded you when you stood at childhood’s gate.

We understand that passion, because we feel the same way.

With The Football Letter blog, we strive to deliver stories and photos that showcase the high level of devotion that Penn State graduates have for their alma mater. If you haven’t already, subscribe to the blog (enter your email address in the box in the lower right-hand corner) and follow us on Twitter, as we’ll highlight the many reasons that distinguish Penn State as one of the premier college football programs in the country.

Or, in Bill O’Brien’s words, why Penn State is “college football heaven.”

Penn State v. Ohio State (Photo by Steve Manuel)

The Football Letter/Steve Manuel

Throughout the season, we’ll feature lettermen, speak with players and coaches, and dig into our extensive archives. We’ll also talk with Steve Manuel ’84, ’92g, longtime distinguished photographer for The Football Letter, as he looks back on some of his most memorable photos.

There’s a lot to savor, and we’re looking forward to sharing another season with our readers.

So, if you’re in town this weekend, we invite you to take your time and soak up all the sights, sounds, and smells that elevate State College into the quintessential college town in America.

There really is no place in the world like Happy Valley in the fall.

For the Glory,

— John Patishnock ’05

 

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FBL Podcast: Georgia State Week

 

It’s Panthers on both sides on this week’s podcast, as we look back at a satisfying victory over old rival Pitt, and look ahead to this week’s visit from Georgia State.

We’ve got a great conversation with Anwar Phillips ’05, a standout in the secondary on the Nittany Lions’ mid-2000s teams, including that memorable run to the 2005 Big Ten championship, Continue reading

All in the Family

Organized, enthusiastic, and relentlessly dedicated, the Penn State Football Parents Association provides quiet but invaluable support for the Nittany Lions—and for each other.

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The tradition started about a year ago, a few hours before last season’s game against Minnesota.

We’ll let Larry Buchholz tell the story:

“Before every game, my wife gives our son a hug before the team goes into the stadium. So we’re there by the south entrance, and there’s Coach Franklin. Usually he’ll high-five a few people and shake hands with recruits, and we happened to be standing right there. So I just reached out with open arms and said, ‘Hey, Coach,’ and we gave each other a big hug and a kiss.”

If you remember how things turned out, you’ll understand why Buchholz’s pregame smooch and embrace became a weekly necessity. Continue reading

A Legacy in Great Hands

It was hard to keep track of all the NFL Draft-related tweets in recent days, from the many messages celebrating Chris Godwin on his selection by the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, to congrats for all the other Nittany Lions who signed free-agent deals, to the tweets anticipating the many talented Lions who will feature in the draft over the next few years.

But one tweet in particular caught our attention. Mostly because it was a draft tweet that wasn’t really about the draft.

The author, of course, is Penn State receivers coach Josh Gattis. And what struck us was the simplicity of the tweet: Congratulating the three members of the 2016 receiving corps who have recently started new jobs. It just so happens that one of those jobs is “professional football player.”

We’re as excited as anyone to see what Chris Godwin—@CGtwelve if you’re not up on your Twitter handles—does in the NFL. But for Gattis, the priority was clear: Let’s hear it for all of our guys, whether they’re succeeding on or off the field. The other guys, in this case, Continue reading

Sandy Barbour Meets the Fans

SandyB Caravan

We’re back on the bus for the Penn State Coaches Caravan, the fourth year of this very cool road trip, and the second with James Franklin leading the way. And it is about the coaches, of course—this week, Franklin is joined by women’s golf coach Denise St. Pierre and men’s hockey coach Guy Gadowsky, while Russ Rose, Cael Sanderson, and Patrick Chambers are set to join in Week 2. But this year, the Caravan is a chance for one former coach to share the spotlight.

Sandy Barbour was a field hockey and lacrosse assistant Continue reading

Exclusive Q+A: James Franklin

CJF Croke Park

In the midst of his second spring practice, James Franklin reflects on the progress the Nittany Lions have made since his arrival, and ponders how much farther they still have to go.

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It was an overcast day in Dublin, a few hours before kickoff, and James Franklin had the lush green surface of Croke Park almost to himself. Clad in a navy suit and royal blue tie, he walked the field inside the historic Irish stadium, soaking up the relative quiet, stopping now and again to appreciate the view. A few noisy, frantic hours later, on this very same turf, he would celebrate his first victory as Penn State head coach.

Seven wins and seven months later, Franklin is in his Lasch Building office early on a Monday morning, starting with coffee and conversation before diving into another busy day. Spring practice is underway, and Continue reading