On Oct. 21, 2016, the day before Penn State upset Ohio State in front of a White Out crowd, ABC play-by-play broadcaster Chris Fowler parked his rental car outside a house in College Heights, just near the golf course, and sat there.
Fowler was home. Well, his old home. Kirk Herbstreit’s primetime partner spent his seventh-, eighth- and ninth-grade years in Happy Valley. His father was a theater professor at Penn State in the mid-1970s, and before his family relocated to Colorado as a teenager, Fowler formed a bond with Centre County and its football fever.
Fowler, talking to the Centre Daily Times days before calling this weekend’s edition of Penn State-Ohio State, said returning to State College “brings it all back.”
“I’m not a very reflective person,” Fowler said over the phone. “So I don’t really sit much and think about the past, and I would never think much about it when I’m not there. But I got there two years ago, sat across the street in my rental car from the house where we lived. ... And I hadn’t done that. I hadn’t been back to that house in probably, God, 40 years. The house is still there. Still there.”
So is Beaver Stadium, where he attended his first college football game. He told the Centre County Report two years ago that it was the Nittany Lions’ 1974 opener — a 24-20 win over Stanford — that introduced him to fall Saturdays.
Memorial Field still stands, too, where the former College GameDay host spent Friday nights watching the Little Lions. Two years ago, Fowler drove from his childhood home to State College’s game against Harrisburg. He walked the sideline, talked with Penn State coach James Franklin and caught up with old friends.
Fowler plans to do the same this Friday, when the Little Lions host Central Dauphin East.
“It’s really cool to go back and see the high school games, be down there on the field and take it all in,” the 56-year-old said. “Those high school games were a big part of my weekends when I was a kid there, as well as the Penn State games.”
In fact, whenever Fowler gets back into town, he has a to-do list. He takes a walk around campus, stops by the Berkey Creamery and visits the Nittany Lion statue.
Fowler doesn’t have a to-do list when he and Herbstreit call games anywhere else. Not in Austin or Ann Arbor, South Bend or Tuscaloosa.
Happy Valley holds a place in Fowler’s heart.
“I have a lot of good memories. Some tough memories, too. The whole spectrum of being a kid there,” Fowler said. “But I don’t do that every place I go, because I don’t have the same memories. For me, it’s a pretty unique place.”