Forgive me for the Godfather III reference, but all week long I’ve felt like Michael Corleone when he bellowed, ‘Just when I thought I was out….they pulled me back in.’ You know exactly what I’m talking about, Nittany Nation. Yep, that dang transfer portal sucked one of our players in again. Just as we put the finishing touches on a nice and tidy spring, our Lion, Tommy Stevens, put his name into that troublesome new creation the great minds (sarcasm alert) inside the NCAA forced upon us all off-season. In the blink of an eye, that feel-good vibe we left Happy Valley with just last weekend came screeching to a massive halt.
It wasn’t supposed to go down this way. I was prepared to close the book on spring ball and declare the coming months countdown to Tommy Time; his one season in the sun. To date, none of us truly have an answer as to why he’s leaving, but it clearly just isn’t meant to be at this point, as the Stevens family confirmed their intentions of finding a new home for his final season of eligibility. Some say he lost the competition to redshirt sophomore Sean Clifford, and some say he doesn’t want to stay and compete. Others say he shouldn’t have to. The one thing truly safe to say is our entire Penn State family has been emotional for days, including me. I hope at some point, Tommy Stevens can appreciate the impact he’s had on us all, even with the anger and hurt some of us fell victim to in the wake of his decision. Even with all our good, one thing we as Penn Staters seem to struggle with is change, and the wind sure did blow in a doozy dose of it this week.
As for the state of Penn State football I was working on, well, despite this setback, our QB room is spilling out of the door with talent as both Sean Clifford and Will Levis take a step up the ladder earlier than expected, and our two highly touted true freshmen were able to at least hold their own as they both got their feet wet on the live stage at last week’s Blue-White game. As much as I was looking forward to The Tommy Stevens Show come August 31st, our level of play in the games most valued positions really didn’t take a hit, other than in lack of experience. Then again, Stevens didn’t see the field much either as a quarterback over the course of Trace McSorley’s run as a Nittany Lion, so it was all going to be new to us anyway.
But boy, I was REALLY looking forward to seeing #2 light up the Big Ten like a pinball machine this year, so forgive me as I struggle to digest the change that blew through the door and has forced me to put 2019 on hold for a week or so. If this is what FrankLion meant when he said, ‘it is going to be harder going from great to elite than it was going from average to great,’ then he sure wasn’t lying. This one stung for sure. All is well in Happy Valley regardless, but I think right now it’s most appropriate to bid a fond farewell to the only player in our illustrious history that’s held the honor of being called ‘Lion’ on those game-day rosters. After all, he leaves Penn State with his degree in hand and isn’t that really what Success With Honor is all about?