Who knew they gave out medals at the NFL Combine? If you were one of those kept in the dark like myself, you know by now Penn State cleaned house in the medal department and put on a show in Indy. I’m half tempted to give a nod to the environment given that Lucas Oil Field was the sight of the 2016 Big Ten Championship, but that would simply would not do our eight Nittany Lions any justice. Nope, it wasn’t some good luck charm on the turf that helped SuperQuon and the Mighty Lions this weekend, and it certainly was no fluke. What the nation witnessed was 100% the culmination of blood, sweat and tears, buying into what a new coach and leader was selling, and a whole lot of ‘trusting the process.’
For the record, Penn State collected 13 medals in all (nine gold, three silver, and one bronze) to obliterate the competition. Ten were attributed to either Saquon Barkley, who earned three in the running backs group, or Mike Gesicki, with a whopping seven to demolish the Tight End group. The rest were collected on Monday as the entire Nittany Lion defensive backfield of 2017 finished off the rout. UCLA came the closest with nine and the margin of victory was the largest since medals joined the competition three years ago.
For Barkley’s achievements, he earned a place on the back-page cover of the New York Post with the headline ‘SUPERQUON’ complete with cape and Superman colors. If he wasn’t regarded as a sure-fire No. 1 pick in April’s draft before, he most definitely is now. Gesicki followed up with a Combine score rivaled only by future NFL Hall-Of-Famer Vernon Davis in the tight ends group. The only question left after his jaw dropping performance was whether Mike G. was a man or a machine. Grant Haley won the 20-yard shuttle in the DB group and in a surprise to all watching, including Neon Deion Sanders, safety Troy Apke smoked everyone in the 40-yard dash by clocking in at 4.35 seconds.
The Nittany Lions put on such a show in Indy that at one point NFL Network talking head and draft guru, Mike Maycock, was quoted as saying, ‘Penn State lit this Combine up!’ For all their on-field achievements this weekend, what may have impressed the scouts and commentators the most was the way our Nittany Lions conducted themselves off the field. If Success With Honor rings a bell, let the NFL Combine be a shining example that it is alive and well. At the heart of it all, beside the athletes themselves, is head coach James Franklin and the Penn State strength and conditioning team led by Dwight Galt Sr., who just finished up another round of winter workouts with the current squad of Nittany Lions.
When Franklin came to Happy Valley one of his first orders of business was to add speed across the board, something he felt the SEC had an edge on over the Big Ten. He brought his old friend Galt along for the ride and four years later that speed and athleticism they craved was on full display. For all the dominance we saw from SuperQuon and the Mighty Lions, Galt Sr. proclaimed the latest round of winter workouts his best one yet. A scary thought indeed for all our competitors, including the Wolverines and Buckeyes of the world!