Ryan Keiser may not have been an All-American, but he came up big for the Nittany Lions throughout his career.
The former Penn State safety had four career interceptions — three of which were game-clinching picks — and served as a co-captain as a senior in 2014.
He joined us for “Five Questions” this week to discuss Bill O’Brien’s “bunch of fighters” comment and his time in Happy Valley:
Q: As a junior, you had two game-ending interceptions. Against Illinois you snagged a tipped pass in the end zone — a play that appeared on SportsCenter’s Top-10 plays. Later in the season, you picked off Wisconsin’s Joel Stave to seal a massive upset. Which one is more memorable?
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A: Oh man. I would have to say the Wisconsin game is the one, just because it was at the end of the year. We didn’t have a bowl game that year. In some ways, that was our bowl game — to end the season with a big win against Wisconsin, and we were underdogs.
Q: After that Wisconsin game in 2013, Bill O’Brien was pretty animated talking about how no one really gave Penn State a chance against the Badgers. He said it was “ridiculous” that you guys were 24-point underdogs. How much motivation did you guys take from that?
A: I think a lot, and I think we were confident watching the film. We knew how we were playing at that point in the season coming into that game. I remember having a lot of confidence that we were going to be all right. (Adam) Breneman and a couple of other guys made some big plays. We were feeling really good out there, and it showed throughout the game.
Q: In your career, is there one game you look back on the most or look back on more fondly than the others?
A: I didn’t play in this game, but it’s the Pinstripe Bowl against Boston College. It was our senior class’ last game together, and getting that win to end a career, it was awesome to do that. Getting back to a bowl game after missing for a couple years, that one was the most memorable as a team that I can remember.
Q: You missed the rest of that season after a fractured rib, right? So you were on the sidelines watching that Pinstripe Bowl. That had to be rough not being able to play in the bowl game.
A: It was definitely tough. Definitely. But I was happy. I missed half the season due to a perforated small intestine, so it was a little more than a fractured rib. Being out and away from the guys, I was able to come back for the Michigan State game and that bowl game. I was able to be on the sidelines, and that meant a lot to me — being back with the team. I was just happy to be back and able to cheer the guys on.
Q: We talked earlier about the Penn State-Wisconsin game in 2013, a year before you guys beat the Badgers at home in overtime on Senior Day. After the game, O’Brien called you all a “bunch of fighters.” Now, most people think he said something other than “fighters.” What did you and your teammates think at the time?
A: (laughs) I think O’Brien is a great coach, and he was excited. I don’t remember talking about that too much, but that’s funny. He was just proud of us. He was enjoying the moment. He was excited about a big win that, again, I think a lot of people doubted us. We were able to go out and have a big win for the program. I have no idea what he said. I just know that he was fired up.