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Letter from the Editor

by on October 30, 2012 1:31 PM

“Character, in the long run, is the decisive factor in the life of an individual and of nations alike.” — Theodore Roosevelt

•••

Several things define a person’s character — near the top of that list is what a person does when faced with adversity. And, certainly, the Penn State football team faced adversity this summer when the NCAA handed down unprecedented penalties against the program for the Jerry Sandusky abuse scandal — and because of that punishment (banned from bowl games for four seasons, scholarship reduction, $60 million fine, among other things), the NCAA told all the Nittany Lion players, basically: Hey, you can go if you want and join — and be able to play immediately for — another program that can compete for a bowl game, a conference championship, heck, even a national title. You don’t have to stick around for what’s probably going to be a sinking ship. Doesn’t sunny Southern California sound nice? Or Tallahassee, Florida? Or Norman, Oklahoma? See, there goes your star running back. There goes your top receiver. Say goodbye to your kicker and punter (although he left mostly for family reasons). There goes one of your tight ends, a linebacker, and an offensive lineman. And do you really want to be representing Penn State right now?

Who would blame anyone for leaving?

But, outside of those handful of players who walked away, most stayed. They stayed because they knew they were part of something that was bigger than themselves. They stayed for the person next to them on the field and in their locker room. They stayed for their new coach who had earned their confidence that he could lead them during these most trying times. They stayed because a place that had become a home to them with people who have become family to them was hurting.

They stayed because they have character.

During a time when many people above them were getting so many things wrong, these college student-athletes did what was right — they were selfless in an arena, college football, where selfishness often reigns. And while there were, obviously, freshmen, sophomores, and juniors who stayed, it was the seniors who led and kept the heart of a program still beating.

Those seniors play their final game at Penn State on November 24. As this issue goes to press, the team is 5-2 heading into its game against Ohio State. If these Nittany Lions somehow go on to win the Big Ten Leaders Division, what an amazing and well-deserved accomplishment!

But even if they don’t, they’ve already cemented their legacy here. They’ll be remembered as fondly as any of the other great teams in Penn State history.

And the first thing many will think of when recalling the 2012 season likely won’t be of any win or individual play but, rather: What character these young men showed us and the country.



David Pencek is editor of Town&Gown magazine, Town&Gown's Penn State Football Annual, and Town&Gown's Penn State Winter Sports Annual.
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