Penn State Football

Penn State football hosts Four Diamonds families, celebrates Thon weekend

Saquon Barkley, accompanied by his Four Diamonds family, the Testas, stopped to see a picture of the running back hanging in the coaches’ hallway of the Lasch Football Building.

The photo was of Barkley’s over-the-shoulder, wheel route touchdown grab in Penn State’s Big Ten Championship win over Wisconsin in December.

Eight-year-old Daniel Testa, who is in remission from neuroblastoma, looked up at it and smiled.

“You know who that is?” Daniel’s father, Brad, asked at Saturday’s Thon Explorers Program.

Daniel pointed at Barkley.

“I heard you can throw the ball pretty far yourself,” Barkley said to the child.

Of course, Daniel wanted to prove to Barkley he could. So off they went, to see if he could hit the back in-stride.

The Testas were among approximately 20 Four Diamonds families hosted by Penn State football for a tour of the Lasch Building and games along the way.

It’s an event the kids look forward to every Thon weekend — and the same goes for the Nittany Lions.

“It’s awesome,” Penn State redshirt sophomore running back Andre Robinson said following the two-hour event. “It’s a really good opportunity to give back. ... and it gives you a different outlook on life after hearing these kids’ stories and talking to their families.”

Robinson and his teammates were paired up with families Saturday afternoon in the team auditorium and left to explore the football building and practice field.

Penn State safety Marcus Allen, followed by members of the Butler family, skipped out of the room and across a Candyland-themed trail of construction paper where they found three giant, plush bowling pins. Allen formed a line and kids tried knocking all three down with a large bouncy ball.

Follow the paper trail up the stairs and into the football office lobby, and more games awaited.

Penn State defensive backs Lamont Wade and Nick Scott manned the limbo station; linebacker Brandon Smith and his wife, Andrea, played with Four Diamonds child Leah Fait; and a large group huddled around a Twister mat.

“It’s good to see the smiles on their faces,” cornerback Grant Haley said. “It’s a break for them, it’s a break for us, and just hanging out with these kids, it’s special.”

Many families and players alike stepped outside to get a bird’s eye view of Penn State’s practice field, where players and children started to gather to take in the unseasonably warm weather.

Players were having a catch with their Four Diamonds child; Kan Jam was getting competitive; and Jenga provided the drama.

Defensive end Ryan Buchholz, alongside offensive lineman Michal Menet, split a two-game set of Jenga with his 11-year-old friend, Mason Smith.

“My buddy Mason told me that he’s been here five straight years, and he’s coming back next year,” Buchholz said. “It’s great to do this every year.”

And away from most of the on-field madness was Daniel Testa, finally having that catch with Barkley.

It started off as just a toss, but eventually the 8-year-old spread it around the field. He even connected with Barkley on an over-the-shoulder throw, re-creating the Wisconsin touchdown he saw in the picture.

But instead of Trace McSorley, it was Daniel dropping a dime.

As it all happened, with families all around doing the same, Daniel’s parents and five-year-old sister Leila sat on the turf and watched, taking in the once-in-a-lifetime moment.

John McGonigal: 814-231-4630, @jmcgonigal9