UNIVERSITY PARK — The 15 Penn State football teams honored by having their years tacked onto the luxury box wall at Beaver Stadium before this one accomplished more on the football field.
The best went undefeated. Others won Big Ten or national titles.
None of those squads dealt with as much off-field drama as the 2012 bunch.
And although this years Penn State football team was immortalized for its off-field perseverance when Penn State added 2012 numbering to the Beaver Stadium Row of Honor on Saturday, this crop of Penn State players wont need to glance up at the luxury boxes to be reminded of this past year.
They lived it.
From the top down, everybody has a role on this team, injured senior linebacker Michael Mauti said. Guys that weve been with for four or five years now and just a really close group of guys that never stopped fighting from the get go. Its something Im really proud to be a part of.
Theyll remember the wins and the losses, the guidance offered by Bill OBrien and the fortitude with which they rode out one of the most tumultuous years in program history.
They endured the firing and subsequent death of their legendary head coach. Defended his legacy time and again. They watched teammates one Penn State player called them brothers walk out the door as soon as the going got tougher. They saw and heard as the program they committed to based on its sterling reputation was consistently beaten up and dragged through the editorial mud by outside voices.
On Saturday, it came to an end on the field. Fittingly, Penn State outmuscled Wisconsin 24-21 in overtime.
As Badger kicker Kyle Frenchs overtime kick sailed wide, the emotions that had been bubbling following a heartfelt pregame ceremony, boiled over.
Penn State players dropped to their knees. Some cried. Some hugged teammates. Some hugged students along the railing in front of the student section.
For the first time all season, outspoken senior Stephon Morris, was nearly speechless.
After about 10 seconds following a reporters question, Morris found his words.
Im just so happy, for this team, for this university, especially this senior class, Morris said. The way we finished the game, Im just really excited. I cant even put it into words. Im so emotional right now.
Morris was one of 31 seniors who played their last game as a Penn State player.
On Friday night, all 31 of them took to the podium inside the team meeting room on campus to address their teammates.
When senior defensive end Pete Massaro took the podium, he spoke of the future.
Us seniors get a lot of recognition for kind of keeping the wheels on this thing, Massaro said. But without some of those younger guys staying. We would be nothing.
Massaro, awoke early in the morning and couldnt get back to sleep as adrenaline pumped through his veins.
Just thinking about the game and trying to visualize going out there and having a great finish and it was emotional all the while, Massaro said.
Massaro, who dealt with multiple serious injuries throughout his career said he started bawling when he saw his parents.
It was a common theme for seniors who were escorted out of the tunnel by their parents who were also recognized by the stadiums public address announcer.
A few hours beforehand, Penn State players were greeted by a fashion change inside the home team locker room. All of their helmets were outfitted with Mautis number 42 on one side.
It was an idea that seniors Jordan Hill and Michael Zordich came up with. The teams equipment manager, Brad Spider Caldwell spent most of Friday evening sticking the numbers to the helmets.
The tributes to Mauti didnt end there.
Senior linebacker Gerald Hodges decided to forego wearing his traditional No. 6 in his last game and wore Mautis 42.
Hodges called OBrien on Saturday night following the teams win over Indiana, the game in which Mauti was hurt, to ask if he could wear 42. OBrien said it was up to Mauti. The injured senior obliged.
Hodges did not speak to the media following the game.
Zordich, whos been on teams that racked up better records and played in big-time bowl games, said the win over Wisconsin was the biggest game hes ever been involved in.
This goes at the top for me, obviously, Zordich said. Theres just so many emotions that go into this game and with this being our last one, and senior day and walking out and seeing your family and your friends on the 50 before you go out to play and they unveiled the 2012 banner, theres just a lot of things that go into it.