Penn State visit

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Partying in State College made me realize how an 81-year-old
man is still able to pull some of the top talent to a little town in the middle
of Pennsylvania.

And let me
remind you that Penn State is and always will be Joe Paterno’s. He has his own
wing of the library and a bronze statue outside Beaver Stadium.

Penn State
is about as old school as it gets. While I respect Urban Meyer’s “cool, hip”
approach to recruiting the big fish to Florida, JoePa’s traditional ways are
still very successful. How about the fact that I walked from a bar to the steps
to Old Main to watch Joe and his team fire up a crowd of a couple hundred after
homecoming festivities on the eve of the Michigan game.

Besides
seeing some of the same people draped in navy and white for 48 hours straight,
there were a couple things that the Nittany Lions did that made me want to
reverse time and take an official visit to State College. For starters, my walk
to the steps of Old Main couldn’t have been anymore uncomfortable, until I saw
those thick glasses and that limp walk. I walked a whole 100 yards from The
Rathskeller with the temperature dipping into the 30s – with no jacket mind you.
I was irritated at the weather and the fact that I was leaving the warm constraints
of the Skeller, but then Paterno spoke to me.

His message
was simple: He loves his fans, his team and the thought of finally beating
Michigan – which he consistently called a good team a la Meyer. But it wasn’t
the fact that JoePa was standing in the bitter could with his players for
homecoming, it was the fact that he was standing out there with his players because
it was any game. This is a weekly
ritual for the Nittany Lions. Homecoming is obviously special and Paterno made
sure he mentioned that, but he brings his guys out each week for a pep rally.
Very old school. Very “cool,” if you ask me.

But what I
really liked about my time in the land of JoePa – besides the wonderful night
life and girls in Ugg boots – was the fact that this team doesn’t travel in
style. I mean those big charter buses that everyone else takes to and from
hotels before and after games, isn’t Penn State’s style. These cats travel incognito
to the stadium in navy-and-white school buses. There are no TVs or footrests on
these things. It’s all about serving up humble pie at Penn State,
and I like it.

As for the
game, who wouldn’t love to be watched by just over 110,000 fans? And I’m pretty
sure every seat was filled 20 minutes before the game even started. They were
there to scream recruits names and boo the numerous chants of “Let’s go Blue!”
Oh, and how about those white student section T-shirts? I know, I know, Florida
has orange ones, but you can always pick out those students that either didn’t
feel like washing it or figured blue, white or the occasional – and
embarrassing – pink just looked better. But these kids were all white, all the
time. Plus they had matching white pom poms to match. Gotta love it.

There were
only a couple guys that have Florida in the mix on hand for the Nittany Lions’
46-17 pounding of Michigan. Hoboken, N.J., defensive tackle Isaac Holmes and
Hargrave Military Academy quarterback Kevin Newsome patrolled the sidelines,
but most of the guys there were either already committed, north eastern guys or
2010 prospects.

Regardless,
this weekend was about how even a Big Ten school stuck in the middle of Pennsylvania
can make weekend in State College look like the trip of a lifetime. The more
traditional feel is what won me over. There was a guy pounding away on a cow
bell and the smell of bourbon and cheese steaks in the air. The entire place
just feels old, but it’s so alive. Even a traditionally boring offense looked
more exciting than most of the traditional spread offenses out there. You gotta
think some of these kids just fall in love with such a 1970s atmosphere.

The hip-hop generation is cool and most
kids are into that, but there’s no denying that JoePa makes old school look too
cool. Obviously, I wasn’t behind the scenes and didn’t get to see the special
treatment these kids got, but after viewing everything around it, I sure wish I
had.

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