Pardon me if it’s been awhile, but I’ve been knee-deep in a losing battle with one of our athletic programs this off-season and not completely focused on football. Ironically, it was the old, hanging by a thread and hardly respected basketball squad that finally provided me with some writers’ block inspiration. Penn State beat the Big Ten Conference-leading Buckeyes with a last-second Tony Carr buzzer-beater (and possible coach-saver) on their own hardwood Thursday night. It evoked memories of another victory over the Evil Empire back in 2016.
For those who have followed along this winter, Coach Pat Chambers and his Nittany Lion b-ballers have been oh so close, yet so far away (sound familiar?) lately and had their backs against the wall in hostile territory Thursday night. They walked in facing the improbable and walked away as winners instead. Whether this win propels them to the next level or not only time will tell, but the parallels between this young basketball team trying to find its way and James Franklin’s Nittany Lions of two years ago are hard to ignore. Here’s to wishing the best to our student-athletes as they move ahead. Hopefully.
As for FrankLion and his football squad, they’ve been busy re-building, re-stocking the shelves, and reloading for another run at greatness. The 2018 version of Penn State Football is in its infancy and already rolling right along, complete with a new motto in tow: CULTURE, CHEMISTRY, CHAMPIONSHIPS. We read the motto on their shirts as we caught a glimpse of them grinding the winter blues away under the watchful eye of head strength coach Dwight Galt and staff. It wasn’t that long ago that they were the ones scratching and clawing for respect, FrankLion included. Heck, you probably could have even called his seat ‘hot’ at the time. An improbable win against those mighty Buckeyes (insert eye roll emoji) midway through the 2016 season changed their whole complexion and set the current championship aspirations into overdrive.
Twenty-Three Nittany Lions that had a heavy hand in the win that glorious October night in Happy Valley have moved on since we last saw them, but they haven’t left our hearts. A handful are still reppin’ Blue and White as they chase their NFL dreams. Troy Apke stole the show at last week’s NFLPA Collegiate All-Star game and took home the MVP trophy. At the East-West Shrine Bowl, Jason ‘Captain’ Cabinda, Parker Cothren, Curtis Cothran, and Grant Haley formed a Penn State-flavored defense and all-time receptions leader, DaeSean Hamilton, put any doubters on high-notice. He earned an impromptu invite to this week’s Reese’s Senior Bowl with his performance and reportedly has been busy raising eyebrows and turning heads. Mike Gesicki, Marcus Allen, and Christian Campbell are all set to join him in the season-ending showcase on Saturday. King ‘Quon you ask? Well, he’s been busy hob-knobbing with the likes of MLB Hall-of-Famer Ken Griffey Jr., giving pizza reviews on the streets of NYC, and watching his name rise to the top of the board in most NFL mock drafts. This week, he was named one of seven finalists for the Lombardi Award and given all the hoopla surrounding him since he declared. I have a feeling this one’s in the bag.
So, it’s been a little old, a little new, and a dogfight on the hardwood in between as we all hunkered down for another long off-season. I could bore you with another re-tread of coaches lost (we wish you well, Josh Gattis) and titles gained (here’s looking at you Coach Chaos) but last night Pat Chambers and his scrappy squad of b-ballers gave me just what I needed to quench my thirst for football, even if it just served as a reminder of where we once were as the Lions Of Winter keep chasing their dreams and aspirations!