It is the month of July already and as much I’ve tried to ignore a mostly rough and tumble off-season that never sleeps, the countdown to kickoff has begun. Just a few days ago in fact, if you’ve been following along on one of your favorite Penn State pages, we tipped our cap to the legendary Matt Millen and the 60 days until Penn State football benchmark.
We’re not quite halfway home to Happy Valley just yet, but as we inch closer to August 31st and the Idaho Vandals, who better to represent than a man who received a new heart, and a new lease on life? In short, NO ONE! His spot has always been firm as we count away the days but this year, in particular, it took on a whole new meaning as the guy who has the reputation of never shying away from a good brawl on the gridiron battled for life and won!
Speaking of Idaho, don’t snicker too much. It really couldn’t come at a better time as we slowly ease ourselves away from the legendary McSorley-era (who as a matter of fact, will ALWAYS have the #9 slot on lockdown) and into the Clifford Reign. Or is it Levis, as Will plans to give Sean a run for the money this August? Only time will tell but either one of them, or even both, will earn a permanent slot in this yearly endeavor the way Trace did over his three-year run.
For the record, #14 Sean Clifford has the far more dubious task between the two as far as the countdown’s concerned. He has the ghosts of National Champs Todd Blackledge and John Shafer, along with National Champion runner-up Chuck Fusina to overtake, compared to the #7 that Levis wears. As we sit here today on the cusp of a new dawn, we can only hope and dream that whoever does win this preseason battle has what it takes to add their names to the list of legendary Lions. There seems to be a lot of doubt swirling around us lately and it’s up to one of them to squash that flame.
If they can defy the odds, they’ll add their story to the likes of Millen (#60), math whiz and keeper of the Grand Experiment flame, John Urschel (#64), Grammy winner Mike Reid (#66), Rosey Grier (#74), Mike Munchak (#78), Ted Kwalick (#82), ‘Eighty-Eight All Day’ Mike Gesicki, Tamba Hali (#91), and let’s not forget, the greatest team to never be crowned kings in 1994.
Men like Bruce Clark (#54), Mauti (no first name needed), Blair and Ki-Jana (no last name needed at #32), Saquon The G.O.A.T. at #26, and Cappy at #22, without a doubt the ONLY number to have the distinction of being retired. We go back-to-back with M-ROB and LaVar at #12 and #11 and of course, long live The Wizard at #9, just to whet your appetite for things to come.
Ironically enough, this year’s edition of the Countdown ‘til Penn State Football kicked off way back on May 24th with a Preseason All-American and Leader of the Wild Dogs, Yetur Gross-Matos at #99, and (in a bit of a spoiler alert for those that have been on the edge of their seats ever since) will end with a bang as the Human Joystick himself, KJ Hamler, takes it to the house at #1 the day before kickoff! Now, if that’s not enough to cure those off-season blues, I don’t know what is!