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Penn State Football: Reihner is Latest in Long Lion of Legacies

by on February 08, 2015 9:47 PM

Kevin Reihner -- the former coal region offensive tackle who is eschewing a fifth year at Stanford to play for Penn State this fall – certainly isn’t the first Penn State football legacy.

Relatively speaking – as in sons, brothers and uncles – Reihner is closer to the 40th. And counting.

And, under James Franklin, he likely won’t be the last. Just the latest.

During last Wednesday’s National Letter of Intent day-long ceremonies, a member of Franklin’s team indicated that Penn State will continue its decades-long tradition of bringing in the progeny of former Nittany Lions. “If,” he said, “they’re good enough.”

With Reihner, there are likely to be few ifs, ands or buts.

After redshirting at Stanford in 2011, he played in 10 games at center and offensive tackle in 2012-14 –including a half-dozen contests in 2014. At 6-foot-4 and 295 pounds, Reihner is expected to contribute immediately to the Nittany Lions’ offensive line. He’s slated to graduate from Stanford with a degree in management science and engineering; he can then transfer and play immediately since he’ll be a graduate student.

Reihner left PA as a highly-acclaimed high schooler from Scranton Prep, where he was rated the 18th-best player in the state by SuperPrep and the nation’s 24th-best offensive guard.

When he arrives on the University Park campus in late spring, he’ll be the third Reihner to suit up for the Nittany Lions. His father George played at Penn State from 1974-77, then was selected in the second round of the 1977 NFL Draft by the Houston Oilers and 38th overall. He played four seasons with Houston, blocking for Earl Campbell. George was preceded at Penn State by his brother John – Kevin’s uncle – who played for PSU from 1972-75.

The elder Reihners did all right with their Penn State degrees. John went to Temple University Dental School after graduation, then returned to his hometown of Washington, Pa., to open a dental practice. After his NFL career, George – Kevin’s father – graduated from Dickinson School of Law. He’s an attorney in Scranton.

Their success brings to mind that quote from their old coach, Joe Paterno, who once said, “My best team will be the one that produces the best doctors, lawyers, fathers and citizens -- not necessarily the one with the best record.”

PATERNAL PAIRINGS

Paterno loved to populate his roster with sons of former players, many of whom panned out quite well. Among the most recent examples were Michael Mauti (father Rich, brother Patrick); Nate Stupar (father Steve and uncles Ron, Doug and Jeff Hostetler); Stefen Wisniewski (father Leo, uncle Steve); Michael Zordich (Mike, now a coach at the University of Michigan); Mickey Shuler (Mickey); and Mike Hull (father Tom, uncle John).

Charlie Pittman, a star running back in the 1960s, and son Tony, a solid defensive back in the 1990s, hold a Penn State legacy record unlikely ever to be broken. Combined, the Nittany Lions were 45-0-1 when a Pittman was in the starting lineup (both wore No. 24). Paterno’s maxim held true with the Pittmans as well: Tony was a 1994 College Football Hall of Scholar Athlete, while Charlie was a longtime high-ranking executive for a media company in South Bend, Ind.

Any mention of Penn State’s legacies would not be complete without noting the Suhey family. Cousins Joe and Kevin Suhey played for the Nittany Lions in the 2000s. Their lineage goes back to their great grandfather, Bob Higgins, who was Penn State’s second All-American in 1915, and its head coach from 1930-48. His son Steve was a letterman in 1942 and ’46-47, earning All-American honors for PSU as a senior. He married one of Higgin’s daughters, Ginger, and three of their sons played for Penn State – Larry, Matt (Joe’s father) and Paul (Kevin’s father).

PENN STATE TODAY

Which brings us back to Penn State in 2015. In addition to Reihner, the current Penn State program features a few other legacy connections:

-- Cornerback coach and defensive recruiting coordinator Terry Smith, who was a PSU team captain in 1991, is the stepfather of Justin King, a talented defensive back (2005-07) who went on to play in the NFL. From 1988-91, Smith had 108 receptions for 1,825 yards, for a stellar 16.9-yard average, and 15 touchdowns catches.

-- Junior wide receiver and punt returner Gregg Garrity Jr. is a third-generation Garrity to play for the Nittany Lions. His father, Gregg Sr., lettered from 1980-82. His diving TD catch in the 1983 Sugar Bowl is one of the most memorable plays in Penn State history. The younger Garrity’s grandfather, Jim, was a team captain in 1954 for the 7-2 Nittany Lions under head coach Rip Engle.

-- Todd Kulka, football’s longtime academic support services coordinator, was a linebacker for Penn State in the mid-1990s. His father John was a three-year letterman for PSU and along with Mike Reid and Steve Smear co-captained the 1968 squad that was 11-0 and ranked second in the nation after beating Kansas 15-14 in the Orange Bowl.

-- Evan Galimberti, a sophomore offensive lineman from State College, was preceded into the Penn State program by his father Mark, who was a manager for the Nittany Lions in the 1980s.

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Mike Poorman has covered Penn State football since 1979, and for StateCollege.com since the 2009 season. His column appears on Mondays and Fridays. Follow him on Twitter at http://twitter.com/PSUPoorman. His views and opinions do not necessarily reflect those of Penn State University.
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