Five questions with Jason Cabinda
UNIVERSITY PARK — Jason Cabinda is well aware of how important this upcoming season is, not just for Penn State football, but also for himself.
The senior captain and defensive leader occupies the middle of the Nittany Lions’ front seven as mike linebacker. He’s taken on a more front-facing role this offseason, co-hosting the football team’s signing day coverage earlier this year, displaying plenty of charisma and savvy on-camera presence during the team’s live stream.
For a position that places a premium on communication, Cabinda has that covered. Now, his focus turns to this season, a year when everyone is wondering what the Nittany Lions will do following an 11-win season and Big Ten title.
Or as Cabinda succinctly said, when “Happy Valley was Happy Valley again.”
Check out our Q&A with Cabinda below, and follow us on social media (@HappyValleyPSU) all season long for more football coverage.
HappyValley: What does this upcoming season mean to you, and what makes it special?
Jason Cabinda: It’s my senior year, and it’s the last go-around. Being a captain as well, I think these things put together is what’s going to make this season so special. Being my class now that’s here, and we’re all seniors, it’s just crazy. The guys that you’re coming in with and after this year, that’s it. You’ve got to the make the most out of it every day; the relationships that I’ve built playing on this team so far and all the friends that I’ve made, that’s what makes it so special. And I think that’s something from last year that we were kind of missing in the years past, is the team chemistry, when the guys are so close and everybody is friends with each other. I think it wasn’t necessarily like that when I first got here. I think it’s like that right now, with the way we’ve built the team. I think a lot of that falls on Coach Franklin and the way that he’s made it feel like everything here is family. I think that’s brought us a long way.
HappyValley: Have you given much thought yet to what you want your legacy to be?
Jason Cabinda: Not necessarily just yet, but right now obviously being a leader for the defense, being an emotional leader on this team, making sure the guys around me are getting better, that’s what you want your legacy to be. “He’s a guy that made everybody better, showed guys how to work from a work ethic standpoint,” all those things are really important to me.
HappyValley: When Coach Pry began his press conference today (at media day), he didn’t have an opening statement. He jumped right into taking questions and was very direct and to the point. Is he like that as a coach?
Jason Cabinda: Yeah, absolutely, straight to the point—from fundamentals to technique from the beginning and we’re just straight after it. I think Coach Pry is really a big emotional leader for us and a guy who really gets us going. When we’re in the defensive room and we hear him start talking, I’m ready to put a helmet on and go right into the game. I think he does a really good job for us.
HappyValley: What are one or two of the biggest lessons that you’ve learned from Coach Pry?
Jason Cabinda: Being humble and hungry, I think that’s really what’s brought me the farthest. Being humble from a sense of no matter how much negativity is out there or how positive they may be speaking about me, staying kind of level-headed and keeping the same approach, the same mentality every day and continue to get better. Then from the hungry aspect, whether you’re a first-teamer or a fourth-teamer, working like you’re on the bottom at all times. I think that’s how you separate yourself from other teams and from other players, is to continue to work. No matter how successful you’re doing or how bad you’re doing, just continuing to work hard and better at your craft, because there’s always room to improve.
HappyValley: Since you arrived at Penn State, what stands out to you the most about this university and this community?
Jason Cabinda: To me, it starts with the fans, and the expectations that our fans have for us. I think that’s kind of why the first two years were a little difficult here, because we didn’t meet those expectations. But they’re just so supportive of us, they’re here, they’re die-hards, they’re filling up the stadium Saturday after Saturday, so obviously we love everything about it. Then anytime we’re able to take time out of our day and do something in the community, they’re so appreciative. I think after last year’s success, Happy Valley was really Happy Valley again—it feels different, the environment and the atmosphere.