As part of our weekly “Five Questions” series, we caught up this week with a Penn State legend in O.J. McDuffie.
McDuffie broke or tied 15 different Penn State receiving, return and all-purpose yardage records upon his graduation in 1993. He was a 1992 All-American, and he played nine seasons with the Miami Dolphins. He’s fourth all-time in Dolphins history in receptions (415), and he was named to the Dolphins Walk of Fame in 2013.
Here’s what he had to say:
Q: For a handful of freshmen, Saturday’s going to be the first time they’re running out of the Beaver Stadium tunnel. Do you remember your first time running out of the tunnel — and what was that experience like; what can those new guys expect?
A: There’s nothing like it. I didn’t do it the first time in the spring like a lot of these guys do now. I didn’t play and I can’t remember who it was against but, man oh man, it was just an amazing sight. I still remember it. Starting with the blue buses and going to the locker rooms — which were a lot smaller than they are now — then coming out to that big crowd, maybe around 92,000 at that point, it was amazing. A sea of blue and white, the goosebumps, seeing Joe (Paterno). As a freshman, you kind of hang in the back to make sure you don’t get in the way and don’t get run over. Let the older guys say which way to go.
It was thrilling, man. It really was. It’s eye-opening to see the magnitude of college football in that you made it to this point, that you’re actually a scholarship athlete playing at a major university. It was amazing, man. Their eyes are going to be wide open, I promise you that.
Q: It’s essentially agreed that the top-4 receivers in Penn State history are yourself, Kenny Jackson, Allen Robinson and Bobby Engram. So I feel like I have to go to the source here: If you guys make up the top 4, who’s No. 5 — or at least belongs in that conversation?
A: Wow ... I think I’m slowly moving out of that top 4, man. The guys that have been coming around lately are rock solid. But I’m a big Bryant Johnson fan. There are a lot of kids — how do you not put (Deon) Butler in there with all the records he has? And Jordan Norwood, I thought, was probably the most consistent guy on our team that I’ve seen in the past. We’ve got so many solid receivers that went to Penn State that I’m probably No. 5 now. Maybe No. 6.
Q: You’re a Penn State guy, and you continue to follow the team. So, on offense, who are one or two of the players you’re looking forward to watching this season?
A: You know I’m always looking forward to seeing Say-Say. Saquon Barkley is a special, special athlete. We actually went out to watch him play in the Rose Bowl, and that’s always something fun to do. But you know who I love? I love (Trace) McSorley. I love our quarterback. I love his moxie, I love his grit, I love his competitiveness. I love how he just wins no matter what, and that’s what it’s all about. You got a fearless leader like that, the rest of the guys will fall in line, and I think that’s why we’ve been so successful. We found a guy that’s a proven winner in high school — not a guy who just had stats in high school — and now he’s leading a prestigious program, and all the other guys are following right around with him. So I’m a big McSorley fan.
Q: You had a lot of highlights to your Penn State career. What’s the favorite moment to your college football playing days?
A: Hmm, I’m not even sure. I had so much fun in college. I really enjoyed playing against UM (University of Miami), my junior year down here and my senior year up there because I get to relive it all the time down here (in Florida). A lot of fans and UM people say, “We remember you. You did this, you did that.” I remember (Miami’s stadium), and what I really love about that is I think the game I had against UM is the reason I got drafted by the Dolphins. I truly believe that. I think the Dolphins and their staff and their brass were watching UM vs. Penn State and they had a bunch of UM players they really enjoyed — but they saw the game I had against them, and they were like, “Wow, we need to take a look at this guy.” That’s why I think I ended up getting drafted by the Dolphins.
My UM games were always fun because they were always the best when we played. They were always No. 1, No. 2, and we were always geared up so much to play those teams. We came up short both times, so there’s the whole team thing — but the fact I had good games and that gave me the opportunity to live in Miami as opposed to Buffalo or Green Bay or somewhere else.
Q: We need at least one off-the-field question here. You were back at Penn State two years ago so, whether it was in your playing days or currently, what is your favorite downtown restaurant or bar to go to?
A: Well, I’m a big Lion’s Den fan. Always loved the Lion’s Den when I was old enough to go there. We hung out a lot on frat row as kids just because of the atmosphere and people our age were able to hang out. And we hung out at Player’s (now Indigo) when they had young kids’ nights up there, when we’d be drinking Sprite and Coca-Cola. But Lion’s Den and the G-Man — that’s not there anymore (now Primanti’s) — those were my spots. Those were my spots. A lot of friends we bring in from South Florida, those are the places we go. Always be loving and be loyal to the Lion’s Den.