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This past weekend those of us that made the decision to watch got a gut-wrenching reminder of exactly where we were almost seven years ago. I refuse to dive into the reviews because that’s not what this is about, but if you saw the movie “Paterno” on Saturday like I did, I am not ashamed to say the tears were flowing more than once. It was a harsh reminder of where we were in the fall of 2011, and sadly we were just beginning to take that walk together into a dark tunnel.

Back to reality in Happy Valley, Holuba Hall was filled with the buzz and excitement of a brand-new season as Penn State wrapped up its third week of Spring Practice. We are inching our way closer to our family reunion on April 21st with the annual Blue-White extravaganza just a few weeks away. Just in case you’ve been away or haven’t heard, we survived those dark days of 2011. Not only did we survive, but in my opinion, we came back stronger than ever. From the pride and joy of win #409 to the unknown of the FrankLion Era, it was as tough a road as any emotionally, but without it, I don’t think we’d be who we are today.

In a strange twist of irony, the man in the middle of this journey we’re on made his first public appearance back at Penn State since he flew to the NFL’s Houston Texans as the New Year’s Ball dropped in 2014. Bill O’Brien was the featured speaker at this weekend’s Chalk Talk, an annual event held by the Nittany Lion staff for high-school coaches. Say what you will about the way he left, but there is no denying the impact he made as he, and all those that stayed, kept our program stabilized during a time when most predicted the Penn State ship would sink. Yes folks, we’ve gone from 409 to FrankLion, with a little bit of help from the man affectionately known as BOB, or simply The Chin Dimple in between. And thanks to him, we’re better than we were when this all started back in 2011.

As for the current squad of Lions grinding it out as winter winds down, all it took was one epic tweet to let us know just how hungry those Lions are. Touchdown Tommy Stevens set us all at ease by letting everyone know his intentions to remain a Nittany Lion despite being able to play immediately elsewhere as a soon-to-be graduate. In a day and age when prima-donna QB’s think it’s their given right to be on the field, Tommy Stevens put everyone on notice that Penn State means business and he is as much a part of the big picture as anyone. The mentality that James Franklin has crafted inside his football program will keep us in the hunt for Big Ten titles and more for years to come. From 409 to FrankLion, there hasn’t been a thing easy about this journey, as some of us were bluntly reminded this weekend, but friends, we have only just started walking into the light. WE ARE together as one and stronger than we’ve ever been before.

Eric Herrold was born in State College and has bled Penn State Blue and White ever since. He is currently the proud owner/coordinator of the rapidly growing Facebook fanpage Nittany Nation, as well as a member of Success With Honor, the non-profit charitable organization. Eric currently resides in Richmond, Virginia spreading Penn State cheer and goodwill to all that will listen!

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