So here we are, just a few steps away from the doorstep once again. Most of us have that summer feeling but the countdown to Penn State Football is well underway and simply impossible to ignore. The winds of change have taken over but some things stay the same, no matter how chaotic the offseason seems to be. In fact, thanks to a dear friend, I happened to stumble across an article from the Sports Illustrated Vault the other day that was penned way back in 1968.
It was a summer preview of a Joe Paterno-led Nittany Lion squad and right in the first paragraph, Joe admitted to spending a large part of that particular offseason explaining and staunchly defending his decision to go for it on fourth and one on the Penn State 15-yard line leading 17-0 late in the Gator Bowl against Florida State. The play failed, and the Seminoles came roaring back in the final six minutes of the game to score 17 unanswered points and end the game in a deadlock tie as the Nittany Lions finished 8-2-1 on the year. You could still feel his disgust 50 years later, which made me laugh and made me miss him all over again.
Like all of you, I’ve followed and been around Joe long enough to see his mannerisms leap right off those pages, even if it was a slightly younger version of the Joe I mostly remember. ‘It’s my way or the highway,’ is what he was really thinking with that Brooklyn defiance to those who questioned him. True to form, he managed to gracefully explain that he wasn’t going to be afraid to gamble every now and then. The rest of the article went on to detail an up-and-coming stingy defense full of underclassmen and the need to find a new quarterback. Little did they know at the time, that JoePa and his Nittany Lions were standing on the doorstep of a 31-game unbeaten and untied winning streak.
It was Penn State nostalgia at its finest as I sit here and patiently dance the summer away with football in the back of my mind. Soon enough, the annual Lions Pride Position Previews will be rolling out and before you know it, the first Pregame Predictor will be waiting on deck. As it stands, we’re just about where Joe and the boys were way back in the summer of 1968, with a ferocious but young D, the dire need to find a QB, that awful taste still lingering from a bowl game gone bad in sunny Florida, and still answering questions from a fourth down that went awry in the closing moments of the biggest game of the year. So, here WE ARE again, preparing for another season as we always have and I wouldn’t want it any other way.