Posts tagged ‘James Franklin’

Inside Our July/August 2017 Issue

When Harry Swimmer ’51 started a therapeutic horse riding program for special needs children at his North Carolina farm 23 years ago, the staff consisted of, essentially, just him and his horses. There was one rider, a 7-year-old girl with cerebral palsy. He didn’t charge a dime. Today, there are some 200 volunteers, 69 riders, and 26 horses on Swimmer’s 83-acre Misty Meadows farm. And to this day, he has never charged any money for the services.

That altruistic approach to service earned him recognition as one of CNN’s Heroes in a ceremony last year, and landed him on the cover this month’s issue of The Penn Stater, arriving in mailboxes soon. In “A Farm Full of Hope,” we visit Misty Meadows to see how Swimmer has kept up with the needs of the kids and the community, as well as his reaction to the CNN tribute.

The new issue also gives you a look into how last year’s Big Ten championship and Rose Bowl berth turned many skeptics into believers of James Franklin and his approach to building the football program, in a profile called “Unite and Conquer.” Additionally, we talk to retiring American Studies professor Simon Bronner, whose office is filled with items from the cultures and communities he has studied in “A Folklorist at Work.”

Plus we’ll tell you what the $30 million gift from Hollywood producer Donald P. Bellisario ’61 means for the College of Communications, take you inside a class that looks at the stereotypes of “good” vs. “bad” moms in literature, and look back at a historic Big Ten championship for men’s track and field.

What do you think about the new issue? Let us know by commenting below or emailing us at

B.J. Reyes, associate editor

June 26, 2017 at 4:54 pm 1 comment

Saquon Barkley is Awestruck, Humble, and Not a Big Fan of Hurdling People

Photo via Mark Selders

Photo via Mark Selders

On May 5, released its list of the 100 best players in college football. Saquon Barkley had no idea he was on this list, let alone that he was so high.

The author of the post said that Barkley was the No. 54 player in all of college football. He believes that only four running backs are better than Penn State’s dynamic sophomore, and all of them are likely headed to the NFL after the 2016 season. While a lot of these lists come out during the offseason, this one had Barkley higher than most.

Upon learning about this, Barkley’s reaction was twofold. At first, he expressed amazement that he was ranked so high.

It’s sometimes easy to forget this because Barkley was so good in his one year in the blue and white, but he’s still a teenager. While he carries himself with the confidence of a veteran, Barkley is still a young athlete who spent part of his freshman year in awe of how cool life is for a college football player.

An example: Penn State played Ohio State in Columbus last year. Barkley went up against some of the best players in America, like former Buckeyes quarterback/wide receiver Braxton Miller, whom Barkley used in video games when he was younger. He even went up against his favorite player in college football in ex-Ohio State running back Ezekiel Elliott, who called Barkley “the Truth” after the game. (Barkley outrushed Elliott, 194 yards to 153.)

“It was kind of a surreal moment,” Barkley said. “I was like, ‘Wow, I’m going against future NFL players, these guys are legit.’ But they’re saying that I’m good, too. I can be on that level one day. It was just a surreal moment, something I’ll never forget.”

Even Barkley’s decision to attend Penn State was based partly on the fact that this place blew him away. Barkley is a native of The Bronx and grew up a fan of Rutgers, the school that he committed to when he was a sophomore.

But then Barkley visited Penn State in the fall of 2013. Then-coach Bill O’Brien – who made Barkley feel “starstruck” due to his ties to the NFL – hosted the high school junior for the Nittany Lions’ four overtime victory over Michigan, which left a lasting impact.

After James Franklin was hired, Penn State amped up its pursuit, and on February 19, 2014, Barkley flipped his commitment. In addition to his desire to play football in Happy Valley, he cited the caliber of education at Penn State – something that Franklin discussed extensively with Barkley’s family – as a big reason why he flipped.

Barkley spent the next few months tearing up high school football in Pennsylvania before arriving in State College and establishing himself as a star in the making. He managed to stay out of the spotlight and let his play define him, which leads us to the second part of Barkley’s reaction to’s list.

While Barkley did mention that he wants to eventually earn the title of the best running back in America, he’s really good at tuning out all the noise and ignoring the attention that has come his way over the last year or so.

Photo via Mark Selders

Photo via Mark Selders

For example, you know how he has a propensity to hurdle opponents who try to go low on him, which leads to some incredible highlights? As it turns out, he doesn’t like doing that, and wanted to stop hurdling defenders once he got to college.

“Everyone thinks it’s cool,” Barkley said. “But, like, me and especially my mom, my mom doesn’t like it at all. You just put yourself at risk.”

Even the attention that came Barkley’s way after he gave a gold medal that he won to another athlete during a high school track meet somewhat rubbed him the wrong way. He viewed it as a simple act of kindness – “No one was supposed to know,” Barkley said – and he isn’t a huge a fan of the media attention or the people who were skeptical about his motives for giving away the medal.

But still, there is a ton of preseason hype heading into 2016, and Barkley is primed to back it all up. This offseason was the first time that he spent an entire spring/summer in a college strength and conditioning program. He’s in new offensive coordinator Joe Moorhead’s running back-friendly system – in Moorhead’s four years at Fordham, the team’s featured back averaged about 1,717 yards and 16 touchdowns.

But most importantly, Barkley has an inherent drive to improve. His goals in 2016 revolve around becoming a better player, leader, and teammate.

One of those goals is to “run the ball better.” Because even though he’s the best running back in the Big Ten, there’s always room to improve.

Bill DiFilippo, online editor

June 29, 2016 at 9:51 am Leave a comment

Sights “Unseen” at University Park

No matter how much time a person spends on campus, it’s almost impossible to see every nook and cranny of University Park. The fine folks at PennLive agree, so they decided to do their best to highlight some of the “unseen” parts of campus.


Photo via PennLive

Inspired by a post it ran last year about the Pennsylvania State Capitol, PennLive is looking all over campus a series called “Unseen Penn State.” It kicked off on Tuesday with a post that looked at James Franklin’s office, which features, among other things, a view of Penn State’s practice field and a stuffed mountain lion that was given to him by a fan.

The rest of the series looks like it will be fascinating, as there will be features on places like Old Main, the Creamery, and the Breazeale Nuclear Reactor.

Bill DiFilippo, online editor

December 8, 2015 at 2:38 pm Leave a comment

The Penn Stater Daily — Jan. 10, 2014

Not yet. Maybe soon: While there’s still no official confirmation from Penn State, Vanderbilt, or the coach himself, the media consensus is clear that James Franklin will be the Nittany Lions’ next football coach. Various outlets are reporting it as essentially a done deal, while Fox Sports has gone so far as to say Franklin has “agreed to terms” to take the job. The buzz among most Penn State fans seems to be that Franklin, who has turned a moribund Vandy program into a solid SEC program over the past few years, would be a great fit. But some observers, both nationally and closer to home, argue that potential off-field issues make Franklin a risky hire. If the reports are true, he’ll have a chance to answer any doubts soon enough.

Actor Taylor Kitsch as Michael Murphy

Actor Taylor Kitsch as Michael Murphy

Murph on the big screen: Lone Survivor opens today, giving a national audience the chance to get a sense of the heroism and sacrifice of Navy SEAL and Medal of Honor recipient Michael Murphy ’98. The New York Daily News recently ran a cool feature on actor Taylor Kitsch, who plays Murphy, in which he talks about the challenge and responsibility of portraying a real-life hero, and the accountability he felt toward Murphy’s family. (There are also plenty of great photos, so it’s worth a click.) Kitsch covers similar turf in a video interview, which you can watch here.

It’s in our nature: Penn State researchers are at the forefront of a number of big environmental stories. Margaret Brittingham, professor of wildlife resources in the College of Agricultural Sciences, adds her expertise to this NPR story on the effects of natural gas drilling in Pennsylvania’s state forests. (Worth noting: Rob Boulware ’86, spokesman for gas driller Seneca Resources, features prominently in the story, as well.) And Penn State is one of three universities splitting a half million in grants from the EPA to reduce pesticide use and lower the risks to honeybees, which are vital to agriculture across the continent.

Ryan Jones, senior editor

January 10, 2014 at 12:49 pm Leave a comment

The Penn Stater Daily — Jan. 9, 2014

World’s Best: Some cool news for Penn State’s World Campus, whose programs were just ranked among the best in country by U.S. News & World Report. Penn State’s online bachelor’s program came in at No.3; the online graduate engineering program ranked No. 5; and the graduate computer information technology program made the No. 6 spot. Way to go, World!

Moving On: Eva Pell, former Penn State VP for research turned head of science research at the Smithsonian Institute, is stepping down. After four years as the Smithsonian’s undersecretary for science, Pell announced plans to retire in March. Her 35-year tenure at Penn State began as assistant professor of plant pathology in 1973.

Sleeping Beauty: We all know that skimping on sleep isn’t great for overall health. But thanks to this graphic from Huffington Post, the negative effects suddenly look even worse—literally. Among lots of other pro-sleep findings, the article cites a Penn State study linking insufficient sleep with out-of-whack hormone levels, which stimulate appetite and can lead to obesity. (P.S. look out for an interesting piece on sleep — and why Americans can’t seem to get enough of it — in our upcoming March/April issue.)

In Plane Sight: Still no official announcements regarding Penn State’s next football coach, though various outlets are reporting that Vanderbilt University’s James Franklin has been offered the job. Hoping to catch Franklin exiting a private plane returning from Destin, Fla. (where Franklin reportedly has a home), a handful of reporters braved the  bitter cold last night at the University Park airport — to no avail. Check out Onward State‘s coverage here.

Mary Murphy, associate editor

January 9, 2014 at 11:43 am Leave a comment

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