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Jeff Byers: Giving Thanks to Those Who Helped Make Penn State Special

by on July 24, 2012 6:03 AM

I am thankful and proud to be a Penn Stater.

Yes, I am sad, hurt, angry, confused and have a host of other emotions and opinions that I’d love to express on a wide variety of issues from the past couple of days. And in time, I will undoubtedly share some of those thoughts in another column.

But I’ve really thought quite a bit about Penn State and why I love the school. I grew up (well, at least got older - not sure if I ever grew up) just a couple of miles from the Penn State campus. I used to walk through the fields from my grandparents’ house on Puddintown Road in Houserville to the home games and have missed only two since 1976.

Many of favorite memories in life are related to Penn State football, wrestling and the other sports teams. There is no doubt these are trying times and there will be many difficult days ahead. I feel let down and betrayed by some at Penn State. But mostly, I am thankful for the people that I know make up the real Penn State. There are many truly special people here and I am thankful to Penn State because it has been a source of great opportunities, challenges, and memories for me. It is largely responsible for the life I have had and it is a life I have thoroughly enjoyed. 

First of all, I want to thank Joe Paterno for the many wonderful memories. My childhood was an especially good one and some of that is because I got to enjoy Saturday afternoons in the fall watching a team and a program that I could feel good about admiring. There are memories and feelings that I will always cherish because of what he, with the help of many others, built in our little town of State College.

I also want to thank in advance all those players who decide to stay or decide to come here the next four years. It is a big deal that you would choose to be here and join or remain with the Penn State family during its most trying times. I certainly do not condemn anyone who chooses to leave or not to come for whatever reason they have. But to those that are here and those that come - you will indeed have the everlasting admiration and appreciation of all true Nittany Lions everywhere.

I thank Bill O’Brien for being who he is and bringing a sense of resolve and hope to a program that desperately needs it. I have said before that, given the circumstances, he is the right man for the job. I would now remove my “given the circumstances” qualifier.

I thank Cael Sanderson, Troy Sunderland, John Fritz and Rich Lorenzo. I have had the privilege and honor of broadcasting Penn State wrestling during the tenures of each of these head coaches. To have a job that you enjoy is one of the best things that can happen in life and I truly could not have enjoyed the time I’ve spent covering the wrestling team any more than I did. The people associated with this program over the years have truly been inspirational and I am eternally grateful for the friendships that I’ve been able to forge with the many coaches, athletes, families and fans.

I thank the many other coaches, administrators and other personnel I’ve had the chance to meet and forge friendships with. There are so many that make Penn State so special.

I thank the friends I made at Penn State. My best friends were made in college and we share bonds that simply cannot be broken. Our days together are the best of my life, and while we share many great memories together, it is also nice to be able to comfort each other during the tough times and vent to each other about those who do not understand why this truly is a special place.

I thank my high school classmates. We recently celebrated our 25th reunion and we, too, share the common bond of growing up in Happy Valley and watching people who do not know us try to define us. It is nice to know there are people out there who have your back and it’s important to know there are people for whom I will always have their back.

I thank the university for the degree I have, for the jobs I’ve had, for the facilities I’ve used and for the friends I’ve made, not just in high school and college but in covering the various sports teams over the years. I got to count Pat Boland as a friend before he passed away. That was because of Penn State. I’ve been able to count many great writers and broadcasters as friends because of Penn State.

I’ve been able to see great moments, share many beers, agonize over other moments, share a few more beers, see and share many experiences and events, and yes, share still a few more beers - all because of Penn State.

After battling with my emotions - and it’s been quite a battle - I realized that the one thing I wouldn’t change is my experiences at and with Penn State. I know there will be many more moments - both good and bad - to come. So, no matter what . . .  We Are . . .  Thank you.

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Jeff Byers has been the wrestling team’s traveling announcer since 1990.
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