Penn State Football

Gregg Garrity Sr. shares his opinion on Penn State’s greatest wideout, talks Sugar Bowl catch, and more

Penn State’s Gregg Garrity Sr. (19) catches a 47-yard pass to score a touchdown against Georgia in the Sugar Bowl on Jan. 1, 1983 in New Orleans. Penn State won the game and the national championship with a score of 27-23.
Penn State’s Gregg Garrity Sr. (19) catches a 47-yard pass to score a touchdown against Georgia in the Sugar Bowl on Jan. 1, 1983 in New Orleans. Penn State won the game and the national championship with a score of 27-23. Associated Press, File

Gregg Garrity Sr. was on the receiving end of arguably the most important catch in Penn State history. He joined us this week on “Five Questions” to discuss that and more.

Garrity Sr. — a 1982 national champion and the father to a fellow former Penn State walk-on wideout — talked about watching games from a parent’s perspective, recalled that decisive Sugar Bowl touchdown and picked who he believes is the best pass-catcher in Nittany Lions history.

Check it out:

Q: DaeSean Hamilton became Penn State’s all-time receptions leader this weekend. But let’s put stats aside, numbers aside. From what you’ve seen over the years, playing and watching, who’s the best Penn State receiver?

A: I’ve seen a lot of them. Even some guys way, way, way back like a Ted Kwalick, who was a tight end but a great receiver, too. I played with Kenny Jackson; I think he was a great receiver. I was fortunate to be on his side. It made life a little easier. But watching throughout the years, I think the best all-around receiver would have to be Bobby Engram. He had good size, speed; tough kid and he could catch the ball. That’s my opinion. There are other ones that are right behind him, and I think DaeSean is there, too. He’s proved it. He’s the got the numbers behind him, and he’s very similar. He could’ve played back when we played when you actually had to be able to block first before you could even think about catching the ball.

Q: Now of course, your son Gregg played for Penn State from 2013-16. What was that like watching Penn State as a father instead of simply as a letterman? Was it different at all?

A: It was. You see it from a different perspective. But it was so much fun. Now I see why my dad was always having a blast when he was watching us. We had so much fun in those four years. Unfortunately, they went so dang fast. I still remember the first day we went up there to drop him off. It just goes way too fast. You get to see a lot of people you don’t see for a while. You meet a lot of great parents. It’s a great melting pot, people from different situations and different types of lives all come together on one team. It made it a lot of fun and special.

Q: Your son was a former walk-on and was awarded a scholarship before his senior season. Did he call you when that happened, and what was that moment like for you?

A: It was pretty funny. Usually these kids don’t call a lot. It’s more text and stuff. He called, and it was around 7 o’clock. My phone was up in the closet, and I didn’t hear it. I was eating breakfast. I went up and saw he called. Now, when they call it’s usually nothing good. Something happened. He wrecked the car or something. But he told me what happened, and I read about it ... I was real proud of him. It’s a tough situation when the guy that recruits you is no longer there. A different coach comes in and has different philosophies and everything. To be able to earn a scholarship in that situation, it’s tough. And we’re proud of him.

Q: I’d be foolish not to ask you about the ’82 Sugar Bowl catch. What does that play mean to you looking back on that?

A: At the time, it doesn’t mean as much as it does now. It’s very special to be a part of the very first national championship team at Penn State, especially with all the great teams that have been there. I know there were teams that should’ve been national champions. But to actually be a part of that team was very special. Getting to see those guys at Pitt weekend was even more special.

Q: Now I’ve got to ask: Do you have a photo of that catch hanging in your basement? Is it the background of your phone? Any daily reminders?

A: In my office, there’s the Sports Illustrated picture, a big one blown up — I don’t even know who blew it up — but it’s really big. People would send stuff. I have a clock that has the Sports Illustrated (photo) on it. I think there was an artist in State College that drew one, and they used it for a spiral notebook one year. It’s a hand-drawing of the cover. I’ve got some pretty cool stuff that people that have sent me to remind me. But it all stays down in my office. Just not throughout the house (laughs).

John McGonigal: 814-231-4630, @jmcgonigal9