Column: Stand up and shout (for the seniors)
UNIVERSITY PARK – Senior Day is always emotional. Long after the sun sets on Beaver Stadium Saturday night, the Penn State football team’s seniors will walk off the field for the final time.
It will be tough to watch. And it should be. This is a special group.
Here are the Penn State seniors who will be honored on Saturday: Marcus Allen, Troy Apke, Brendan Brosnan, Saeed Blacknall, Jason Cabinda, Christian Campbell, Tyrell Chavis, Curtis Cothren, Desi Davis, Billy Fessler, Mike Gesicki, Grant Haley, DaeSean Hamilton, Cody Hodgens, Brendan Mahon, Josh McPhearson, Andrew Nelson, Tom Pancoast, Daniel Pasquariello, Brandon Smith and Mitchell Vallone.
You probably recognize a lot of those names. Allen, Cabinda, Gesicki and Hamilton are household names in Happy Valley. Fessler, Pancoast and Vallone are not. But each and every one of these seniors deserves applause on Saturday.
Make sure it is long and loud.
We could make a list of memorable plays some of these guys have made. Heck, we could do a top 10 or top 20. But there are too many to list, and we’d certainly miss something. Instead, dig through your memory banks (or YouTube) to find your favorites. We’re sure Haley’s blocked kick return for a touchdown against Ohio State will be in everyone’s top 10 – if not No. 1.
At the time when these players committed to Penn State, it would have been very easy for them to go elsewhere. Last season, many of these players were key cogs on a team that stunned many as it won a Big Ten Championship. So many comebacks. So many thrilling wins.
For many of these seniors, their football playing days are far from over. When Penn State’s season is finally over after the bowl game in January, many of these players will begin prepping for life in the NFL. For others, these last few games will mark the end of their playing days.
As far as regular season finales are concerned, Saturday’s will be unique. It will be chilly, but a 4 p.m. kickoff and a Stripe Out will make for a memorable Senior Day. Nebraska is struggling. These are the Cornhuskers of old. They have no shot at a bowl game and they’ll likely be starting a redshirt freshman QB who will be making his first collegiate start.
In short, Penn State’s Senior Day festivities should end with the seniors ringing the Victory Bell one last time.
There’s another guy – who is not a senior – who should get a lot of applause on Saturday.
The running back is only a junior, but with the riches of the NFL calling, Barkley will likely forego his senior season for the riches that are coming his way. He won’t be introduced with those who are playing their last home game. Therefore, when Barkley scores – and he will score on Saturday – make certain he gets a loud ovation. And even though it’s cold, stand, yell and clap.
Barkley and the seniors certainly deserve it.