I remember that day in Ann Arbor in late September 2016. I remember the scene all too well. Two warriors were called to duty far before their time and to no avail, but we got our first glimpse of Cam Brown and Jan Johnson. I remember it well. I remember that rain-soaked tussle with Army in 2015 when a true freshman named John Reid introduced himself to us with some late-game heroics. I remember the day Steven Gonzalez committed to Penn State and set Nittany Nation all abuzz and I remember that first punt that Blake Gillikin boomed off his toe.
I remember that time when Garrett Taylor flipped his commitment from Michigan and I remember the day Nick Bowers jumped ship from Pitt, they put us all in a frenzy. I remember that first spring practice when Rob Windsor put enough hustle in to raise Dwight Galt’s eyebrows. I remember this past September when Michael Shuster and Nick Eury both gave fits to Idaho. I remember this summer when Hunter Kelley earned his scholarship and I remember in the spring when Dan Chisena got his. Jake Zembiec, I remember you were our biggest recruiter once you came on board, but that image of bling hung around your neck this season is one we will never forget. Add ‘run-ons’ Colton Maxwell and Justin Tobin, along with fifth-year transfer Weston Carr, and that makes a grand total of 16 Nittany Lions to be honored on Senior Day this Saturday.
I remember what life was on the field before these men came to town. Back-to-back seven-win seasons if memory serves me correct, and I know what each and every one of them brought to the table as they leave Penn State football a much better place. A Big Ten championship and the right to vie for three more over the course of their career will define them as we say goodbye on Senior Day. They rose as high as No. 2 in 2017 and found themselves at No. 4 in this year’s first week of the College Football Playoff poll. As we bicker and debate the success of another 10-win season, the third in four years I remind you, these men deserve better from us. All you have to do is look back to the way things were before they came to town.
I remember the day we went 6-0 this year. It was a hard-fought win over Iowa. Just to get a gist of what this class meant to this program, I don’t believe the words ‘bowl eligible’ were mentioned even once. Not in any article, not on social media, and not by me either, although I tucked it away in the back of my mind. Being bowl eligible has become a gimme again thanks to them. If the players before them kept our ship afloat, it was this senior class that launched it back to full speed ahead. As of today, they’ve notched 40 wins over the past four years with more than a fighting chance to win two more before it’s all over. With a little help from the outside, another trip to the Rose Bowl is still very much a possibility. That is their legacy.
Oh Rutgers, I remember you too. I remember you gave us all we could handle in 2014, but once this Senior Class came to Happy Valley you never stood a chance. I remember when there were no guaranteed games, but as we wrap up a hard-fought season, a win over Rutgers is almost a guarantee. We can thank these 16 seniors on Senior Day for that, Nittany Nation: Penn State 54, Scarlet Knights 3.