UNIVERSITY PARK — When Penn State coach James Franklin learned the capacity of Beaver Stadium at his introductory press conference, he said he expects every home game to be sold out.
On Wednesday night, Franklin continued to work toward that goal, holding “The Signature Event” at the Bryce Jordan Center to introduce the fans to the Nittany Lions’ 2014 recruiting class. Franklin broke down Penn State’s 25-player class, offering analysis and insight into how it all came together on National Signing Day.
It was a first-time event at Penn State, giving fans an up-close look at future Lions players.
“He’s creating more avenues for alumni, fans as well as past players with what’s going on with the program,” said John Peterson, 33, of Pleasant Gap. “And that’s good he’s opening up those doors.”
Fans also got a chance to see former linebackers Michael Mauti and LaVar Arrington, who hosted the event as Franklin broke down players’ highlight tapes. The fans cheered the introduction of the 2014 team before giving standing ovations to Mauti and Arrington. Franklin introduced the team’s early enrollees between breaking down highlights.
During a break, quarterback Christian Hackenberg and cornerback Jordan Lucas addressed the crowd.
They offered their gratitude for the support and spoke of their excitement for the 2014 season.
“You guys are our best recruiters, so we expect to see you at Blue-White (scrimmage) and every home game this season,” Lucas said.
Peterson said he was excited to see the former stars such Mauti and Arrington at the event.
Cody Slack, an architectural engineering major, appreciated the opportunity to get a preview of each incoming recruit from the head coach before they take the field.
Slack said he could tell how much Franklin cares about his players and the relationships he builds after hearing the coach describe them Wednesday night. And he echoed Peterson’s thoughts on Arrington and Mauti’s return.
“They were talking about the family aspect of Penn State,” said Slack, 22. “So to bring back a couple players, it was nice to see the past, present and the future with the recruits.”
Franklin thanked the fans after being introduced by Arrington.
The coach said at his press conference earlier Wednesday the program will celebrate the wins on the field, off the field and in recruiting. And he told the crowd he plans to make it a yearly event.
“We’re gonna party like this once a year,” Franklin said. “This is gonna grow and it’s gonna be awesome.”
Follow Ryne Gery on Twitter @rgery.