Posts filed under ‘Penn State Football’

Matt Lehman is Going Racing

Photo via Patrick Mansell

Photo via Patrick Mansell

Matt Lehman has had an interesting life since graduation. The former Nittany Lion tight end tried out for a few NFL squads and worked at a pizza parlor as he tried to make his way back from a knee injury that ended his collegiate career.

Lehman ’13 never caught on in the NFL, but he still ended up with a career in sports: Lehman will join NASCAR’s Hendrick Motorsports as a pit crew recruit. Lehman was introduced last week at the team’s inaugural signing day event and will fill the role of a fueler/jackman.

There’s no word on when Lehman will debut, but we’re always excited to see Lions make it to the pros.

Bill DiFilippo, online editor

September 30, 2015 at 9:53 am Leave a comment

Keeping up the Fight

The following story appears in our September/October 2015 issue.

Steve Smith

Steve Smith, center, with his family, from l-r: his son Dante; his daughter Jazmin; and his wife Chie, at their home in suburban Dallas. (Photo compliments of Chie Smith.)

There is no cure for Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis. Researchers say life expectancy for those with ALS is about three to five years from the time of diagnosis, and only about 10 percent live longer than 10 years.

Those statistics don’t dim the optimism of Steve Smith ’87 H&HD, who was diagnosed with ALS in 2002. Today, at 51, he continues to live the best life he can with the help of his wife, Chie, and their two adult children, Dante and Jazmin. He says that resilience is a lesson he learned from his days at Penn State, where his skills at fullback helped the Nittany Lions to the 1986 national title.

“Coach Joe Paterno was a big part of why I am still living now,” Smith says via email (he breathes through a ventilator and is unable to speak). “He taught me if you don’t win every battle on the football field, you just keep fighting. He taught me that a four-yard gain is a good play, so I have been trying to get four to five yards every day of my life.”

But ALS has taken a toll. “He’s pretty much paralyzed,” says Chie Smith, who is with him most of the time in their suburban Dallas home. Smith is confined to bed or a wheelchair, and requires a feeding tube. The family prepares only organic food, processed in a blender. His ventilator requires a breathing tube in need of constant suctioning.

He passes his time watching TV, and occasionally the family will rent a van to accommodate all his equipment and take in a movie, one of his favorite activities. “The good movie was Jurassic World,” he says. And he relies on a computer to communicate, controlling it with facial twitches and eye movements. It allows him to “speak” to his family, type emails, even control home appliances and electronics. “It’s enabled him to just have some independence,” says Chie.

But the voice: it’s synthesized, doesn’t sound like him, and even cops an attitude at times. Like a male Siri speaking the right words, but maybe not using the proper tone or inflection. “The way it answers sometimes it sounds like it has a little bit of an attitude, so that can be kind of funny,” his wife says.

“At least it is male voice,” says Steve Smith. “Chie wanted to give me a female voice.”

B.J. Reyes, associate editor

September 1, 2015 at 12:37 pm Leave a comment

Inside Our Sept./Oct. Issue

SO_cover[1]Alumni association members should be getting our Sept./Oct. issue any day now. On the cover is Caroline Bowman ’10—otherwise known as Elphaba the witch in Broadway’s Wicked. Photographer Michael Lavine captured the actress in her New York dressing room before the show—and before her nightly coating of green body paint. In “The Great (Blue and) White Way,” senior editor Ryan Jones caught up with Bowman and other theater alums making names for themselves on Broadway and beyond.

Also featured in this issue: Former Nittany Lion and NFL linebacker Tim Shaw ’06 opens up about his battle with ALS.

You’ll also find a collection of campus memories from the class of 1965. Find out what happened when a student tried stealing a case of beer out of the gymnastics coach’s garage, along with other college hijinks, in “Fraternity Dogs & Elevator Tricks.” (Artist Scotty Reifsnyder did an awesome job illustrating these stories.)

More highlights: A look at the 2015 Women’s World Cup, which featured a number of Penn Staters, including two members of the all-conquering U.S. team; an interview with Jay Paterno ’91 about a new namesake beer; and a conversation with “career student” Jesse Scott ’03a, ’06, ’10g, who has been taking classes for 14 years.

Let us know what you think of the Sept./Oct. issue by commenting below or emailing us at

Amy Downey, senior editor

August 25, 2015 at 10:50 am 8 comments

What’s In A Name? For Penn State Football Players, Not Much

(c) Annemarie Mountz

(c) Bill Zimmerman

The Penn State football program’s decision to remove the names from its jerseys was received with a ton of enthusiasm, not just from fans and coaches, but from the players as well. Soon after the decision was announced, multiple players took to Twitter to express their approval, with offensive lineman Angelo Mangiro even penning a lengthy note that perfectly sums up the way many of the team’s older players reacted.

But as we found on Thursday during the team’s annual preseason media day, for some of the younger Lions, it wasn’t clear why this was such a big deal. Take sophomore defensive back Christian Campbell. The Alabama native wasn’t sure how to respond when he was made aware of the move, but says that the positive reaction by fans and alumni gave him a deeper understanding of the program’s rich tradition.

That sentiment was echoed by redshirt freshman linebacker and California native Koa Farmer. Like Campbell, he wasn’t as aware of Penn State tradition, although he did know about the iconic uniforms. So when told that the uniforms would be sans nameplates going forward, he respected the decision, which he called “old school.”

“It’s bigger than ourselves,” Farmer says. “It’s bigger than the name on the back, so there’s nothing I could have done to disrespect it.”

Even some players from the commonwealth had a hard time adjusting to the move. Take, for instance, redshirt freshman DB Daquan Worley. “The name on the back of the jersey, it meant something to my family, but in the bigger picture, this means something to everybody,” the Coatesville native says. “It means something to Adrian Amos ’14, who wore this number before me. I feel like I’m playing for him every time I step out on the field. When I get my chances, I feel like I’ve gotta make this number look good. I can’t let him down. It’s a pride thing, all the things that he taught me, trying to mentor me, I’ve got to show out for my big brother.”

The now-nameless Nittany Lions will kick off the 2015 season on Sept. 5 against Temple at Lincoln Financial Field in Philadelphia.

Bill DiFilippo, online editor

August 6, 2015 at 4:13 pm 1 comment

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