Joe Battista: A Win for the Ages
We all witnessed history on Saturday night in Happy Valley. Yes, it was a "Happy Valley" once again, even if only for a brief time, due to a fitting end to one of the most challenging football seasons ever.
For those who were in attendance, it was one of the most emotional scenes in a long time and cathartic for the soul of the Nittany Nation.
We owe an enormous debt of gratitude to these players, especially the seniors.
This senior class won't get to play in a bowl game, and this team won't get to be crowned champions of the Big Ten. But for what this team has meant to those of us who believe in Penn State and all the good that it still stands for, we need to recognize this team, these seniors, and especially the team captains, among the best ever.
Their example is now the stuff of legend. Choose your description for the character they showed and the values they stood for under intense public scrutiny. Loyalty, perseverance, commitment, courage, poise and grace.
There aren't many young men who have ever had to face the challenges and adversities this group has had thrown at them and found a way to handle it with the dignity they displayed all season.
Then there is that leadership thing. Amazing. As a coach, I always said the two things any team needs to reach its potential are chemistry and leadership. To the Michaels, Mauti and Zordich; to a former walk-on turned record setter in QB Matt McGloin; to Jordan Hill and the guys in the trenches on the O-line and D-line; to Michael Yancich and the unsung heroes on special teams; their example has inspired hundreds of thousands at a time when many of our fans and alums needed it most.
They have earned our respect, and they deserve our gratitude.
For those fans fortunate enough to be in the stadium and to have a chance to say a proper thank you to this special group of seniors, I salute you. While I am admittedly disappointed in all the no-shows, especially in the student section (sorry, students, but these were YOUR classmates that you had a chance to honor), I know the Nittany Nation recognizes what these young men did "for the glory."
The "never say die" attitude that this team displayed throughout the season and the perseverance of players like kicker Sam Ficken (how can you not be happy for the kid?) were shining examples to all.
These exceptional student-athletes have given us far more than football games to watch on Saturdays. They have taught us life lessons in how to face pressure and to overcome obstacles not of their doing and to do it with class.
Coach Bill O'Brien and his staff did a wonderful job in the midst of the most difficult of circumstances. The mark of good coaching is whether a team improves from the first game until the last, and this team quickly put the disappointment of the first two losses behind it. Not many coaching staffs could have held up as well under the intense scrutiny placed upon them in the past 12 months. None of them signed on for the challenges that unfolded before them when the NCAA levied the unprecedented sanctions upon our program. Hats off to Coach (and his staff) for being named Big Ten Coach of the Year.
One final word about this year's two vocal leaders, Michael Mauti and Michael Zordich. I know both of their families and consider them good friends. Both young men are a credit to their families and are destined for great futures. I will miss seeing their parents and siblings but am certain they will be back in the future.
Mostly, I will never forget what the Michaels and their teammates have meant to PSU this year.