The NFL Draft is behind us. Saquon’s been crowned the King of New York. Big Mike G is a new star down in South Beach, and Marcus Allen had a homecoming in Pittsburgh. He’s now decked out in black and gold and joins a Penn State legend; longtime assistant and short time head coach Tom ‘Scrap’ Bradley who now leads the Steeler DBs. In total, 15 Nittany Lions are busy grinding away in their new homes as NFL Mini-Camps kicked off for rookies and by all accounts, our guys are proving themselves more than worthy at the next level.
Back in Happy Valley, all’s been quiet on the home front as graduation has come and gone and everyone’s off for just a little R&R in the off-season that barely sleeps. Everyone that is except FrankLion of course, who just wrapped up a whirlwind tour of the mid-Atlantic with this year’s Coaches Caravan and welcomed home a quartet of super-early enrollees who just couldn’t wait until late June to begin their new life in Blue and White. Welcome to Penn State PJ Mustipher, Pat Frieirmuth, Will Levis, and Judge Culpepper; #93, #87, #17, and #88 in your playbook from here on out.
This is always the time of year when writer’s block strikes the hardest for guys like me. It’s been a little easier with the XXL-contingent of Nittany Lions in the NFL, and that in and of itself leads us all to wonder how the heck we’re going to replace all that lost talent. Early preseason polls have us ranked inside the Top 10 and clearly in another 3-way fight with Ohio State and…ahem…ahem…cough…cough…the Jim Harbaugh Wolverines (go figure and insert the eye-roll emoji while you’re at it). Our win-loss odds currently stand somewhere between the mid-9’s to a high 10, so for all we lost, most people out there don’t think we’ll skip much of a beat.
Of course, the return of a preseason Heisman-candidate has a lot to do with that. Here’s looking at you Trace McSorley, aka “The Wizard,” but some of it also has to do with the man that steers the ship, restocks the shelves, graduates his players, and reloads for another run at the elusive College Football Playoffs. A guy that not only has led Penn State back into the Top 10 but one that also finds himself inside the Top 10 in the coaching world as well: Head Coach James Franklin.
So much for that ‘hot seat’ that’s truly only a season and a half cooled off and so much for that label as the best ‘used car salesman in town’ that some of you clung to as the process chugged along. Those days are far behind us and after watching him on the first night of the draft make sure he got that coveted hug from King ‘Quon, I’m now more convinced than ever our coach is as genuine as it comes. When he claimed he had two daughters and 120 sons way back in January 2014, he meant it. When he begins and ends every squad meeting with “I Love You,” he means it. This image of him embracing Saquon Barkley on draft night was as genuine as the one of him hugging Sam Ficken in Dublin, Ireland after his very first win as our head coach.
As I struggled with my annual end of spring/pre-summer writer’s block that I deal with every year, one thing cajoled me out of my doldrums. Of all things, it was a license plate proudly posted on social media for all Nittany Nation to see. One from my adopted state of Virginia, as a matter of fact. Emblazoned across the PSU Alumni tag with the old Pozniak lion head to the left, in big, bold, blue were the letters LUVCJF.
As hard as some of these are to figure out, it was easy to see that this one was an ode to FrankLion. In a sea full of 409 configurations and JoePa memorials, I’m going out on a limb and saying this may be one of the very first that was strictly directed at our new leader and you know what, I’m good with that. Judging by the number of ‘likes,’ ‘loves,’ and comments that followed, I think the rest of you are too. It may have taken five long years to get there, but yes, WE love you too Coach. Let something as simple as a license plate be living proof of our appreciation. In fact, despite all the unanswered questions surrounding our upcoming season, it’s safe to finally say, IN FRANKLIN WE TRUST. And that my friends, comes straight from the heart!