Lea and Joey Blackburn sprinted toward a bus full of Penn State football players, who teasingly stuck posters out the windows when the bus stopped on East Calder Way.
Lea, 16, of Downingtown, worried the bus would start moving any second, so she reached her hand out and a player gave her a poster. She stepped back on the sidewalk, satisfied with her unexpected gift, and then the bus doors opened.
Out stepped coach James Franklin, who motioned his team off the bus.
“It was so cool, because I want to be one of them someday,” Joey, 13, said. “I want to be a college athlete.”
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Lea and Joey accompanied their mother, Teri, to get a sneak peak of the players, who flooded downtown State College, Nittany Mall and Colonnade with 2,000 posters on Wednesday.
“I think it’s awesome that they came out into the community,” Teri Blackburn said. “I’m so excited (Franklin) is here. We’re really looking forward to the season.”
Franklin flew in from Bristol, Conn., after a day of ESPN interviews to be with his team. He said he wanted the team to reach out to the community in some way before the season.
“We want to continue to reach out and connect with the community and State College, and we wanted to show them our appreciation for them supporting us and filling up the stadium for us every week,” Franklin said.
Players said it was the first time the team had infiltrated the community in such a personable way.
“We’re definitely happy that we got to do something like this,” junior cornerback Jordan Lucas said. “It only makes the community support stronger, and we want to do things to show we support them the same way they support us.”
Sophomore quarterback Christian Hackenberg said the fans were surprised to see them.
“I think we got excited to give back to the town and added a lot of excitement to the town,” Hackenberg said. “I don’t think anyone expected this, and then once one car stopped they all realized it was OK to stop and talk to us and get a poster.”
Eighteen-year-olds Lauren Berusch and Aleks Kolliopoulos, both of State College, said they saw on Twitter that the team would be handing out posters, but didn’t know where. They were going to CVS when they saw players handing them out.
“We saw on Twitter something about this, but, no, we didn’t expect it when we were here,” Kolliopoulos said. “They were really personable.”
They also didn’t know what was on the posters Hackenberg handed them.
“They’re football related, so it has to be good,” Berusch said as Kolliopoulos unraveled one to reveal a large team photo. “That’s awesome.”