There will be changes when the Penn State football team takes to the field today.
Ribbons on the backs of the players’ helmets.
Names on their jerseys. While we know some fans are struggling with seeing those alterations, we remind everyone of a fact that Penn Staters have long embraced: It’s what’s inside those jerseys that matters most.
As this Penn State team has prepared for what will be a challenging season to be sure, we’ve seen a strong display of courage, of commitment. Yes, of heart.
Despite challenging circumstances that include NCAA sanctions and roster defections, these Nittany Lions have worked very hard, remained loyal to their school and each other and taken on a burden that is much greater than merely playing football games.
They are inspiring the Penn State community and our region as we cope with the fallout from a summer of scandal and controversy.
They are striving to heal divisions in the Penn State family by becoming closer as a team themselves.
It’s time to cheer them on. We’ve applauded coach Bill O’Brien for the way he has carried himself and how he has led this collection of young men to this moment.
At noon today, the team will pour from the Beaver Stadium tunnel to face Ohio University.
We hope a full house gives them the standing ovation they deserve.
At his Tuesday news conference, O’Brien said he truly believes the football team will be a catalyst in helping us all move forward.
“I think you’ve got a group of guys that really understand that they’re in a very unique situation but it has a chance to be a special situation,” O’Brien said. “No matter what happens out on the field, these guys, they’ve developed in my opinion an unbreakable bond.”
Of the names on those jerseys, O’Brien said: “I felt it was important for the people out there to really know who these kids were that stuck with this program, that stuck with this university, that are going to help — not lead, just help — this community in moving forward. I felt it was important for the people to know who these kids were and what their names were, because when you put the helmet on, you can’t really tell sometimes.”
O’Brien said the names aren’t about individual glory, but rather “about just people on the outside knowing what these kids are all about moving forward and these kids are high-character guys that really care about Penn State.”
You can’t help but like the personalities on this team.
•The leadership of seniors Mike Mauti and Michael Zordich, who stood before the squad this summer and proclaimed their loyalty to Penn State and the program.
•The intensity of Matt McGloin, the brash former walk-on who will make his first season-opening start as the Lions’ quarterback.
•The determination of Bill Belton, Allen Robinson, Stephon Morris and the many others who stayed at Penn State and will be rewarded with a spot in the lineup today.
These Penn State players know there will be no bowl game at season’s end, no spot in the Big Ten Conference championship game.
And yet, they’ve found it within themselves to rise above the setbacks to take the field today.
No matter what the scoreboard reads each week, these Nittany Lions are already winners.