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Penn State Football: Surprisingly Friendly, Jason Cabinda No Less Talented As He Takes Over New Role

by on August 09, 2015 6:00 AM

Most college football players are well spoken, friendly, personable individuals. So it would be unfair to suggest that isn't the case.

But it is safe to say that most of them aren't as nice as Penn State linebacker Jason Cabinda.

At 6-foot-1, 245 pounds you wouldn't exactly peg him as the warm and fuzzy type. This theory is only furthered by one of his first public appearances of the year that included lifting two 225+ pounds weights and standing in place for as long as he could without dropping them. This being the kind of thing that involved a lot of flexing, a fair amount of yelling and in general a lot of reasons to think maybe Penn State had recruited the Hulk.

Only days later though Cabinda could be seen in public again, this time taking a picture with three elementary school aged fans in downtown State College, smiling wide and handing out schedule posters to anyone who would stand still long enough.

Add in the fact he also happens to be incredibly well spoken and you have yourself quite the character. It's something that's hard to describe, but once you experience it, you get it. Jason Cabinda is just a nice guy.

Which is odd considering he is in the business of getting a running start and hitting people as hard as he can for 60 minutes.

"Football is a violent sport,"Cabinda said thinking about the juxtaposition between his personality and the sport that he plays. "When you can't really be that happy fun loving guy out there on the field you're just focused and you've got that thing in your head or your stomach that makes you mad that you just visualize to get you in that mood to play."

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"But off the field I'm just a friendly easy going guy, I get a long with everybody - I think - but to put it together it just sort of happens, I couldn't really tell you how it works."

However he has managed to find the angry side, Cabinda stands to make a big impact on the upcoming season at outside linebacker along with Nyeem Wartman-White and Brandon Bell. It was Cabinda's aggressive nature on the field that saw him play as a freshman, but if you had run into him earlier in life it may have been hard to picture him as a starting linebacker in the Big Ten.

In fact, if you jumped in a time machine, Cabinda wouldn't have been that kid in every elementary school that classmates just knew would be playing sports one day. He would have been the kid you might have least expected to ever see the football field.

"I was never really that kid," Cabinda said laughing, now very much the opposite of his former self. "I started when i was in fifth grade, my mom got me into it and when I started I was just chubby and I was just fat as hell. So that's kind of how I started playing, just to stay in shape."

"And then I just hit this major growth spurt and I grew like 6 or 7 inches and by the 8th grade I went from fat and chubby and short to tall and skinny and athletic. And once I really started to dedicate myself to the weight room that was when I really started to put it all together. But if you saw me in fifth grade you would have never have thought that man, this was gonna be you. It's pretty funny."

A career at Hunterdon Central in New Jersey put that chubby kid in the rearview mirror and helped turn Cabinda into one of the state's best linebackers. From there it was simply picking from nearly 20 schools interested in his services and the chance to be a part of history was something he simply couldn't pass up.

"It played a huge, huge part in my recruitment," Cabinda said about the chance to be a linebacker at so-called Linebacker U. "Being able to go to a place named Linebacker U. It's an honor, especially being able to take the name's off the back of our jerseys so now I can really feel connected to the players who wore my jersey. It's a neat place, it's really a special place."

Penn State's has attracted and produced enough charming and well spoken All-Americans over the years that Cabinda's existence isn't an outlier. Nevertheless it is no less enjoyable talking to someone so well rounded, something not entirely lost on Penn State's coaching staff. Some of the program's best recruiters are current players, so no need to do the talking if guys like Cabinda can do it for you.

"Jason is one of those guys that when we have recruits and parents we love for them to meet him because he's very personable he's intelligent, he has a passion for Penn State," Linebacker coach Brent Pry said. "And it's very true, that's one of the reasons he played as a freshman, he's physical and aggressive and he has got good size."

Cabinda knows he has work left to do. With only one season of college football under his belt it's not as though he's a veteran who has learned all the ropes. To be sure he enters this season with a confidence that will prove to be an asset for Penn State in the long run, even as he navigates some of the bumps in the road as a young new starter.

Chances are though, most of Penn State's opponents will never get a chance to meet his friendlier side, and that's just fine as far as the Nittany Lions are concerned.



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