Be thankful for the seniors and Bill O’Brien

Posted by on November 22, 2012

While I’m sure we all have much more important people in our lives to be thankful for this holiday, as this is a Penn State column, I’ll stick to that.

For Nittany Lion faithful, we can be thankful for this group of seniors, who stuck with the university and the football program when it would have been very easy to chuck it all.

Michael Mauti and Michael Zordich, whose vocal leadership in the days after the NCAA sanctions kept most of the team together.  Matt McGloin, who became so much more than most of us expected he could be at QB.  Jordan Hill, who had the kind of stellar season many expected, but who could easily have done so elsewhere or been sidetracked by all the off field issues.

These seniors who will play their last college game Saturday at Beaver Stadium deserve the thanks of Penn Staters for helping, in the most visible way available to the school, display the good things about Penn State.  They showed the kind of quality people who are recruited to play sports at the school, and the character of people who represent the university.

Bill O’Brien, too, deserves thanks.  He stepped into what he knew would be both a tremendous opportunity and a most challenging one.  Then, things got much worse when the sanctions hit, and the team’s kicker/punter, top receiver, and top running back left.   Through it all, O’Brien maintained an even keel demeanor, consistently striking the theme that he and the players who stayed had to do the best they could with what talent and grit they had, and not worry about things beyond their control.

When Illinois coaches showed up en masse in State College the day after the NCAA said PSU players could bolt without consequence, O’Brien took the high road.  Oh, make no mistake, he delievered his message with the icy handshake after the Lions trounced the Illini in Champagne, and with the motivation he no doubt gave his players in private leading up to that game.  But, he handled the situation with class when he had every right to lash out.

While the scandal continues to impact the football team and the school, with more trials and three more years of sanctions ahead, the seniors of 2012 and Bill O’Brien have helped Penn State weather the worst of it.  Be thankful for that, and that it is not November, 2011.

From my family to yours, have a Happy Thanksgiving.

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