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Penn State Football: In a COVID World, Getting to Know the New Guys Is a Unique Challenge

by on October 01, 2020 2:10 PM

Living in a COVID-19 world, whenever Penn State football takes the field it does so in smaller groups. The reasoning is simple, you're not as likely to get the virus if you don't come in contact with too many people.

The idea is straightforward, and has worked so far, but there are unintended consequences, for example: who is the new guy across the field from me?

“It was definitely weird coming into the facilities,” Penn State quarterback Sean Clifford said on Thursday. “When we started lifting and probably the past few weeks there were some freshmen that I still had never met before in person. We just hadn't had that opportunity. We haven't had summer workouts. We didn't have the seven-on-sevens that like we did in the past.”

The circumstances make for an interesting challenge when it comes to leadership, how can you lead guys you’ve never met before? How do they learn to trust you when you don’t even know their name yet?

Of course these sorts of obstacles would happen when any new freshman class comes to campus, but until the Nittany Lions are all in the same place at the same time there are still some introductions to be done.

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“It’s kind of weird when you're at practice and Coach Franklin calls on maybe a new defensive lineman, and you've just never even heard of this kid before,” Penn State receiver Jahan Dotson said with a laugh. “So I just try to go out and meet someone new at [every] practice. There's one kid on the D line [Jake Wilson] he's from my high school, and I literally haven't haven't seen him yet, that's just crazy to me. So I'm gonna try to find him today at practice and say what’s up.”

There is the other side of that coin that can lead to a sometimes hilarious clash of personalities in a position room. Everyone assumes that teammates are always best friends, but it doesn't always start out that way. Take for example running backs Noah Cain and Journey Brown, both extremely close now, but a relationship that had a rocky -if not somewhat hilarious start.

“I was the guy that came in and at first and I didn't really talk to many people because I didn't really know many guys on the team,” Cain said. “And then there’s Journey who was the fun-loving dude who always wanted to talk and laugh with everybody. And like, at first I told Journey, “I'm like boy, like I thought you were weird, like I did not like you...” but now we’ve got a real brother relationship.”

And as far as Brown’s side of things, when asked about it he just laughed.

“I'm a goofy dude, I just love to play around,” Brown said. “I'm just a happy person so for him to come in so serious and stuff, I would sit next to him during practice and pull on his pocket or pull down his pants and stuff and he's like, ‘what are you doing dude’. I’d pull on his jersey or grab his mouthpiece out of his helmet and throw it on the ground...You’re so tense, you gotta let up a little bit.”

The two laugh about it now, but as Penn State continues to work into the swing of things, getting to know the guy next to you will be as important as getting to know Indiana or Ohio State.

And with less than a month until things kick, there’s no time like the present to break the ice.

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