The Greatest Season No One Expected - Life after college football
This May I will be graduating from Penn State University. Not only will I be starting a new chapter in my life and growing up, but I will also be experiencing something completely new to me. College football as an Alumni. Holy crap! As a kid, Penn State football was my future, for the past 4 years it was my present and for the rest of my life it will be my past. I will be a Nittany Lion forever and nothing could ever change that, but come next fall, it will no longer be my classmates on the field but instead the future of Penn State.
As a senior I could not have asked for a better season from O’Brien’s Lions. After the Sandusky Scandal, I thought Penn State football would never be the same. I never thought I’d see a football team I enjoy to watch or a coaching staff that I would be proud of. I’ll be honest. They all proved me wrong, ugh, even Matt McGloin.
We gave him a lot of crap this year, but Matt McGloin did a great job this year for Penn St.
This summer I dreaded the 2012 Penn State football season. I was disappointed in my school, disappointed with the staff, even disappointed with the players and fans that gave up and left us in the dark.
April 2011 was annual Blue White weekend, the first without coach Paterno. I sat in the freezing cold rain to watch a new football team and a new staff. I had no idea what to expect and didn’t want football season to ever return.
In August the dark clouds started to disappear as opening day got closer fans showed their support in those who stayed with us. Banners, posters, T-shirts, thousands of Facebook messages and tweets were circulating everywhere. We (Penn Staters) young and old, came together to realize that we were no longer hiding in the shadows, yet proving to the world that we could overcome such a horrific tragedy. We all became one. One Team, One University, and most importantly One Family.
Then September 1st rolled around and I looked back at Blue White and realize that the team and the coaching staff were growing and rebuilding what people tried to knock down. Although the season didn’t start out the way we had all hoped it gave us more of an incentive to come together stronger than we already were. It was our turn, the students, to really stand up and support our classmates and our friends who were busting their butts on and off the field to represent us as a family.
The season didn’t start out the way everyone hoped, but the healing process had begun
As the season continued the Penn State community grew stronger and stronger both in and out of Happy Valley. The Lions first win of the season came on a stunning September day against Navy. Penn State won 34-7 and everything about that day was beautiful. After we won that game it felt as if we conquered what everyone said we couldn’t. The student section hugged and cheered then sang the Alma Mater as the team came down to the end-zone and we watched those players who mean so much to us ring the victory bell. Arms linked to your neighbors swaying back and forth while singing and celebrating the win. It felt as if a huge weight was lifted off all of our shoulders. The dark clouds that lingered over Happy Valley were finally gone. The sun was shining bright and continued to shine along with the Penn State who won their next 4 games.
Winning their first game of the year was like a giant weight being lifted off of the entire Penn St. family
The Lions continued to roar all season long, finishing off the season against Wisconsin. Besides JoePa’s 400th win, this was possibly one of the best games to witness in my college career. It was absolutely freezing, as the sun set it snowed, then snowed harder and the wind picked up. It was so cold that I would run to the women’s bathroom just so I could stand under the heaters and get feeling back. Both Penn State and Wisconsin played their hearts out and fought till the very end while I drank 3 cups of hot chocolate to stay warm. Going into overtime was bittersweet. More time in the stadium on senior day and my last game as a student, but I was so cold that I wanted to go home and curl up under my warm blankets. Overtime was so exciting. I have to admit I held my breath when Sam Ficken went to go kick the field goal in OT. Seeing him make that field goal was so exciting even though a lot of us doubted him all year long.
He missed a lot of kicks this year, but he made his last one.
When Kyle French missed the 44 yard field goal Beaver Stadium went nuts. Absolutely insane. One of the craziest things I’ve ever seen in my life. Again all the students linked together to celebrate the win and sent our seniors out the right way. Singing the Alma Mater and ringing the victory bell louder than its ever been rung. Tears ran down the senior’s faces, tears of happiness, tears of sadness and the worst, eyes tearing because of the wind. It was the perfect ending to my fairy tale college football experience. I could not have asked for a better ending.
Now that I look back, I understand why fans left us, why players transferred and why people doubted us. All I can hope is that they can give Penn State the credit it deserves.
Watching college football will never be the same for me knowing I used to be a part of the best student section in the country. I look forward to attending Beaver Stadium as an Alumni to relive these days. I will always remember and cherish the WhiteOuts, Game Day Live, Hey Baby, Sweet Caroline, We want the lion, and of course the one and only Blue Out. I am so blessed to have had the opportunity to attend every home game and even some away games from the 2009 season throughout the 2012 season.
Although I got to witness so much as a Penn State student, both good and bad, I would not change it for the world. It has made not just me, but all of us stronger people because we had an experience that no one else will ever have. We had to come together after a tragedy that ripped us apart and we learned to stand strong and to stand behind what we believe in. We became one and will always be one.