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Penn State Football: Lift For Life Does Little To Slow Down Hype Train

by on July 15, 2017 1:50 PM

"This my first year with season tickets," A fan yelled to Saquon Barkley and anyone who was listening. "Beat Ohio State boys."

A few seats down from Barkley at the autograph session kicker/punter Daniel Pasquariello whispered back in his thick Australian accent "We're just focused on Akron."

As it always is, Saturday's Lift for Life event was a lighthearted affair. Fans poured into Holuba Hall to root on their favorite players and didn't leave disappointed. Be it Steven Gonzalez putting up 38 bench press reps or Trace McSorley working out with his Rose Bowl hat snug tight to his head, there were plenty of positive moments throughout the morning. 

But it was also the backdrop to an unavoidable truth. College football is just around the corner. Big Ten Media Days at the end of the month will set off a whirlwind of preseason events at a lightning pace leading up to the start of one of Penn State's most anticipated seasons in decades.

And that feeling was hard to miss. A glimpse of Barkley would set a cheer out from the crowd, after the event Mike Gesicki's autograph line was just as long as Barkley's. McSorley no less popular across the room with plenty of other big names getting their own fair share of attention. The official numbers will come out later, but by nearly every measure this year's Uplifting Athletes event was Penn State's biggest to date.

It should be said, and often isn't, that Penn State is exceptionally lucky when it comes to this season for a reason that is quickly becoming public knowledge; Penn State's best players are perhaps its most likable.

Barkley, swamped by fans took the time to talk to each kid that passed his way, getting grilled by two twin girls no more than 10 years old about his upcoming season. He smiled and laughed, both parties happier having met in that brief moment. Gesicki smiled, his default setting, and shook hands and signed posters. Jason Cabinda talked shop and thanked people for their support. McSorley, who is fairly quiet despite his national prominence, made his fair share of small talk as well. SportsCenter did a quick hit from the event, doing little to play down the upcoming season.

None of this will win Penn State any games, but during a season where the nation will be keeping a close eye on Happy Valley, the Nittany Lions couldn't have asked for a better team to pull off the reintroduction of Penn State football to the class of the elite.

But as Pasquariello reminded that fan who laughed and walked off into the afternoon with a football signed by some of Penn State's biggest names, it's Akron first and everything else second. 



Ben Jones covers Penn State football and basketball for He's on Twitter as @Ben_Jones88.
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