Now that Cael Sanderson and the Wrestling Kings have officially stamped their names on the word ‘Dynasty’ with their eighth National Championship in the past nine years, it’s time to turn our attention to a program doing their very best to create one of their own: Penn State Football. Just prior to Bo Nickal, Jason Nolf, and the rest of those mighty Lions taking the mats in Pittsburgh last weekend, they received a message of good luck from their admirers on the gridiron and in the immediate aftermath, Happy Valley celebrated as the massive video boards inside Beaver Stadium roared in victory.
When you say “family,” I say “PENN STATE,” and that was never more evident than this week as we all basked in the glow of another championship weekend, Nittany Nation-style. Not only did our wrestlers dominate their way to another banner, but Penn State Fencing finished runners-up in their Championship tournament, and swimmer Ally McHugh won the gold medal in the 400M individual medley to become Penn State’s first National Champion in women’s swimming. Combine all that with men’s lacrosse proudly sporting a No. 1 ranking, men’s gymnastics in the Top 5, and baseball’s Diamond Lions off to the hottest start since 1980, and it’s safe to say Happy Valley is all smiles at the moment.
Which brings us back to football. You know, the team striving to be champions again. We/they got a taste of it in 2016, but haven’t quite been able to cross the threshold ever since. In case you haven’t given it much thought since early January, there’s a new feel in town in regards to the football squad. A new sheriff as well for that matter. Gone is Trace and in steps Tommy for his season in the sun.
To be sure, Sean Clifford will give him a run for the money this August but in the end, Tommy Stevens has bided his time like a good soldier standing watch and this is his team to command. Along with Ricky Slade, KJ Hamler, and a whole host of other weapons FrankLion has assembled in his offensive arsenal. More on that as we get closer to Blue-White weekend in a couple of weeks, but if you think our offensive juggernaut left the field forever, along with #9 and the rest of those that gave us all another taste of being a champion, you’re sadly mistaken.
There are plenty of questions as Penn State Football embarks upon this new era but as I watched that short video last week of what equates to our current version of Linebacker-U cheering on their fellow student-athletes prior to March Matness in Pittsburgh, I saw the hunger in Penn State football’s eyes. Micah Parsons isn’t happy, nor content, with 9-4 and Citrus Bowls. Neither is Jan Johnson, Jesse Luketa, or Cam Brown, the lone senior of that crew who just this Wednesday confirmed that their one and only goal is a National Championship or bust. All those highly touted freshmen, redshirts, and sophomores from stellar back-to-back-to-back recruiting classes aren’t satisfied either. They did not come to Happy Valley to win single-digit seasons, they came to win it all.
If Cael Sanderson and the Wrestling Kings provided a spark, then so be it. There once was a time when they looked up to others as well, and nothing helps a new era get off to a roaring start more than bringing home that Championship aura as their main example on campus! I see that hunger in their eyes and come fall, the Lions that are knee deep in spring practice as we speak will have what it takes to make another run at the ultimate prize.