We’re counting down the days until kickoff. So, every day, we’ll try to make that time tick by just a little faster by also counting down the top 30 moments of James Franklin’s tenure so far. Up next — with seven days left — is the No. 7 moment since Franklin took the head-coaching job.
No. 7 moment: Carl Nassib wins major awards
Carl Nassib led college football in sacks in 2015 and subsequently became Penn State’s most decorated player in more than a decade.
Not too shabby for a former walk-on.
Nassib came out of nowhere a few years ago — he wasn’t even a starter on his high school football team — to win several national awards.
A product of Malvern Prep, the lanky defensive end walked on at Penn State in 2011 and didn’t see action until 2013, when he appeared in 10 games and recorded one sack. In 2014, the then-junior — again — managed only one sack.
Entering his senior season, Nassib was expected to start and was a popular breakout candidate. But no one anticipated what he’d go on to do.
Nassib racked up 15.5 sacks in 2015, an NCAA-leading mark that set a new Penn State single-season record. Ten of those sacks came in the season’s first six games, including three against Buffalo in Week 2.
Nassib also recorded a nation-leading six forced fumbles, making him the first Nittany Lion to lead the FBS in multiple statistical categories since running back Larry Johnson in 2002.
The 6-foot-7 terror became the 13th unanimous consensus All-American in Penn State history and earned three postseason honors: the Lombardi Award, given to the nation’s top lineman or linebacker; the Ted Hendricks Award, for the nation’s top defensive end; and the Lott IMPACT Trophy, for the defensive player that represents the qualities embodied by Hall of Famer Ronnie Lott.
Nassib was the first Nittany Lion to win three national awards since Johnson, and it can’t be overstated how big of an accomplishment that is for a former walk-on.
A kid who never started in high school isn’t supposed to become the Big Ten defensive player of the year. He’s not supposed to play college football, let alone play at its highest division and succeed like few before him have.
Nassib is in the record books with one of the most dominant seasons in Penn State history — and what he did, in his situation, may never be matched again.