“We didn’t want to leave on a bad note.”
So Penn State safety Jaquan Brisker, cornerback Tariq Castro-Fields and receiver Jahan Dotson decided not to.
“We just told ourselves we’re going to come back, man,” Brisker said, citing a group FaceTime call the trio had. “It’s going to be better than what we did last year. We’re coming back for a reason. We’ve got a chip on our shoulder. We’re going to bring back the normal. We can’t set the standard how we did last year. We’ve got to go above and beyond, so that’s basically what the conversation was about and then we made our decision and we came back.”
It’s hard to imagine Penn State’s 2021 season going much worse than it did in 2020 between the injuries, the 0-5 start and the general state of affairs that the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic set in motion. All three Nittany Lions could have gone pro, albeit each with a different likelihood of being drafted, but sometimes the future can wait.
And sometimes you have to finish what you started, especially when you get to finish what you started with people you care about.
“My relationship with those guys is unmatched,” Dotson added. “I’m with those guys literally every single day.”
The question now of course is what this trio can do to make those dreams become reality. For Brisker – who had his best season yet in 2020, and Castro-Fields, who spent a second season partially sidelined with injuries, both can stay healthy and both can work to limit Penn State’s defense giving up chunk plays on a semi-regular basis. The veteran duo coupled with the likes of corner Joey Porter Jr can give the Nittany Lions a solid foundation in the secondary to work with.
As far as Dotson, the star wideout is looking to make good on his breakout season in 2020 as one of the few bright spots for Penn State. There’s a chance Dotson leaves the upcoming campaign a household name in the Big Ten and beyond, but first will come all the work nobody sees.
And that work includes the details, the practice reps, the film and the recovery. All of that comes from leadership.
“We wanted to be those leaders on the team who set the standard for years to come after us,” Dotson, who regularly writes the word ‘legendary’ atop practice papers, said. “We know that Penn State football is used to winning, and that’s what we’ve got to do. We’ve got to meet that standard, and we felt like this is the perfect opportunity for us to showcase our challenge and meet that standard and achieve some great goals.”
And if the trio does that, the rest will take care of itself, but for the Nittany Lions on the field, but for the dreams of what might come next for the NFL hopefuls.
“We came to the decision that it was best for us, best for the team, best for our families, everything,” Dotson added.
“We felt like it was the right decision to come back and just give our all, literally every single day, competing with those guys. They’re some of the best in the country, and we know that going against each other every single day is only going to make us better and prepare us for the next level, so that was a big thing for us.”