Posts tagged ‘The Football Letter’

Twenty Years On, Still Perfect

I think I’m finally over my jet lag from five terrific days in Dublin, and just in time: There’s a home opener to be ready for.

The Nittany Lions’ meeting with Akron is notable for a few reasons, not least that it’s James Franklin’s home debut. But as both a 1995 grad and the guy who spent untold hours on the phone this past spring and summer with members of the ’94 Lions, I can tell you I’m almost as excited about the reunion of Penn State’s last undefeated team as I am about the game itself.


Carter, Collins, and Brady, three of the stars of the unstoppable ’94 offense.

Alumni Association members by now should have their copies of our Sept./Oct. issue, which features that great shot of Ki-Jana Carter ’95 on the cover, and, inside, an oral history on that team’s epic comeback win at Illinois. While the magazine piece focuses on the Illinois game—well, really the whole trip to Champaign, a surreal experience that the players, coaches, and managers recount in the issue—it’s just an excerpt from our much larger oral history of the ’94 Lions, tracking that squad from raw recruits into arguably the greatest offensive team in college football history. I spoke to nearly 30 guys for that one, and it was very much a labor of love. If you haven’t already, you can find the entire piece over at The Football Letter Blog.

The reunion is well timed not only with the 20th anniversary of that team, but with the emergence of true sophomore Christian Hackenberg as one of the best quarterbacks in the nation. Hackenberg’s record performance against UCF in the season opener, following his terrific freshman season, has some people wondering (prematurely) how he ranks with the best QBs in program history. Well, the guy who tops that list, Kerry Collins ’94, is expected back this weekend, as are arguably—key word here—the best running back (Carter), receiver (Bobby Engram ’95), tight end (Kyle Brady ’95) and offensive line in school history. There are lots of worth guys in the argument at all those positions, but the fact that so many guys from that one team are in the discussion tells you just how phenomenal that team was.

For so many reasons, it’s impossible to compare this year’s team—still limited by sanctions, and with a brand new coaching staff—to Joe Paterno’s veteran, talent-laden ’94 squad. But based on some of the things I heard repeated time and time again by Carter, Collins, Engram, Brady and nearly everyone else I spoke to from the ’94 squad, there’s plenty that this year’s Lions would be well to mimic: Work hard, put aside egos, never doubt what you’re capable of, and never miss a chance to laugh. Solid advice for any football team—and, I suppose, for life in general.

Ryan Jones, senior editor


September 5, 2014 at 1:28 pm 3 comments

The Penn Stater Daily — March 28, 2014

Elite company: For the second time, Maggie Lucas has been named a finalist for the Wade Trophy given annually to the top player in women’s college basketball. The senior guard, a two-time Big Ten Player of the Year, is one of 12 finalists for the award. You can read the latest of Maggie’s ESPNW blogs here, and watch the Lady Lions in action Sunday night when they face Stanford in the NCAA Sweet 16.

Far-reaching roots: The cast of Blood at the Root, a play in production this week and next at Penn State Downtown Theatre Center, is making an international impact. The Centre Daily Times details how the production will travel this summer to South Africa and Scotland. It’s tremendous exposure for a university production.

Coach Chaos is a hit: James Franklin’s coaching staff has already revealed some fun personalities. You can start with the pizza-reviewing, hip-hop-video sharing, daughter-defending Twitter standout, Herb Hand. Then there’s Charles Huff, dropping marine biology terms to describe his special teams. And then there’s the most intense guy on the staff, Sean Spencer, aka “Coach Chaos.” Over at The Football Letter Blog, we dug up video of Spencer from his playing days at Clarion University, and let’s just say this guy’s intensity is nothing new. In a word? Ouch.

By the people: Tracy McCourtney ’65 and her husband Ted have made a $3 million gift to endow the Institute for Democracy in the College of Liberal Arts. The “transformative” gift will “enable the institute to pursue excellence and leadership in advancing the cause of democracy.”

Human touch: We’re happy to congratulate Steve Sampsell ’90 Com on being the 2014 recipient of the Barash Award for Human Service. The award, created by the family of the late Sy Barash ’50, annually honors a faculty or staff member at University Park for contributions to “human causes, public service activities, and the welfare of fellow humans.” We know Steve as a senior lecturer and director of college relations for the College of Communications, a Daily Collegian alumnus, and an all-around good dude.

Ryan Jones, senior editor


March 28, 2014 at 8:34 am Leave a comment

The Penn Stater Daily — Jan. 27, 2014

Assist of a lifetime: Well, this is just about the coolest story. David Glen is a sophomore forward on the Nittany Lion hockey team, with two goals and three assists in 18 games this season. He didn’t play in Saturday’s 3-2 loss to No. 2 Boston College, but he had the best possible reason: On Friday, Glen began a five-day process to donate bone marrow to a perfect stranger. According to this feature from, Glen and the rest of his teammates were swabbed last season to see if they might be a match for the mother of men’s lacrosse player Drew Roper. None were, but Glen was contacted later and told that he was a match for someone else in need. For a person he’s never met, Glen signed up for some serious discomfort, and also gave up three games of his college hockey career, including a showcase against one of the nation’s top teams. Humbling, and impressive.

Photo by Abby Drey (@ADreyPhotos), Centre Daily Times

Photo by Abby Drey (@ADreyPhotos), Centre Daily Times

Federal investigation: The Office of Civil Rights in the U.S. Department of Education is investigating Penn State to determine if the university reacted “immediately and appropriately” to complaints of sexual harassment and violence. The investigation intends to determine if Penn State is in violation of Title IX, the federal law that prohibits gender-based discrimination in education. The Centre Daily Times reports the investigation was spurred by an increase in the number of sex offenses reported to campus authorities in 2011 and 2012.

So, about that nekton: We told you last week about how new assistant football coach Charles Huff promised the Nittany Lions special teams would play with a “nekton mentality.” We also promised we’d look into what, exactly, that meant. Well, thanks to Penn State marine biologist Iliana Baums, we’ve got an answer. If you haven’t already, head on over to The Football Letter blog for a quick explanation of how nekton applies to football.

Ryan Jones, senior editor

January 27, 2014 at 12:56 pm 1 comment

Same Touchdown, Different Angle

I just saw the new issue of John Black’s Football Letter (if you’re an Alumni Association member, you probably have it in your e-mail in-box by now) and noticed that it includes a shot by Steve Manuel ’84, ’92g of one of Graham Zug’s two third-quarter touchdowns against Michigan State. Steve shoots Penn State football games for us; 99 percent of the photos you see in The Football Letter are his.

The photo of Zug’s touchdown was taken at the same moment as the AP photo that I liked so much, just from a different angle. And if there was any doubt about whether the ball crossed the plane of the end zone, there isn’t after you see Steve’s photo.

Looks like Steve liked the photo well enough to include it on his blog.

Tina Hay, editor

P.S. If you don’t get The Football Letter—or The Penn Stater for that matter—you can get them by joining the Alumni Association.

November 23, 2009 at 2:03 pm Leave a comment

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