‘Very happy in Happy Valley:’ Assistant coaches settled at Penn State

Between signing contract extensions, receiving promotions, and joining the Penn State football staff, the assistant coaches are collectively saying that Happy Valley is starting to truly feel like home.

“We live out in Boalsburg in a pretty good spot,” Defensive Coordinator Brent Pry said, speaking for himself and his family; he and his wife, Amy, have three children. “We like our neighborhood, and we like our views, and we have a big yard, so we like to stay home. When I get that little bit of time off, we’re usually at the house and in the yard, or out on the bikes or walking, and spending our time that way.”

Pry was promoted to his current position this offseason, and along with the rest of the coaching staff, received a two-year extension. The new contracts align with the thinking that this season is being treated as Year 1 for James Franklin and his staff, with Pry saying, “We’ve done a lot of good work here over the last two and a half years, and anybody’s who close to the program recognizes that.”

Added Defensive Line Coach Sean Spencer: “It shows the trust that the administration has in our staff and the trust that Coach Franklin has in our staff.”

This is Spencer’s 10th coaching stop since 1996 — he had two separate stints at Massachusetts — and most other places he’s been signed him to a one-year contract, he said.

As another example, over the last two decades of his coaching career, Pry’s longest stay has been with Virginia Tech (1995–98). Everywhere else, it’s been only a few seasons — or sometimes just one.

Now, the Altoona native talks like Penn State could equal some longevity, saying family stability played a big role in signing the extension.

“Stability is hard to find in this profession anymore,” Pry said. “It’s not so much about the money anymore, but the stability, job security and the length of your contract. When you go home and have a wife and kids — and you’ve relocated them to some new place — you want the security and comfort to know that we’re going have some stability and continuity in their lives.”

He continued: “We’re very happy in Happy Valley; it’s a fabulous place to live. This university and this football program are embraced by this Penn State nation, and the school is fantastic. This is a really good place to raise your kids, and I feel very good about my family being here.”

Passing game coordinator Ricky Rahne mirrored those thoughts, saying that even though his family tries to live in the moment, they’re familiar with the constant moving. Rahne was at Kansas State from 2006–10, coaching in three different capacities. Before and after, he was at Holy Cross, Cornell and Vanderbilt for a total of five seasons, now entering his third year with the Lions.

“We try to have the mindset that we’re going to live this day, this week, and this month like we’re going to be here forever. But in the back of their minds, some of that stuff is there, so this helps,” Rahne said. “For coaches, it’s the most important part of this, it makes your family feel more secure.”

Rahne has two sons, and they attend Spikes games when they can while also staying active and competing themselves. “They like to run around and play sports,” Rahne said of Ryder and Jake,” so I can find a number of places that they like.”

Tussey Mountain among them, with mini-golf and go-karts as attractions. Rahne added Penn State felt like home for him sooner than other coaches, as his family moved into their house in March of their first year here. His wife, Jennifer, is from Pittsburgh, and she and the boys have a routine after a few years at Penn State. Just don’t count on seeing them at the Berkey Creamery.

“I don’t know why, but my kids don’t like ice cream,” Ricky said, laughing. “I don’t know where that came from. We’re still trying to figure that one out. So unfortunately, my wife and I don’t visit the Creamery as often as we’d like.”

Then there’s Offensive Coordinator Joe Moorhead, who like Rahne, has children involved in sports and activities, so that’s how he spends his free time. He’d love to fish more often if he had the time he said, adding that spring creek is right across the road from his house.

Moorhead will go with his family to the movies, and on vacation: “We do things that normal families do with their down time,” he said, adding that they’re not overly outdoorsy.

They still found time to visit a local attraction, though, and learn a little bit about Nittany Lion history.

It wasn’t what Moorhead was expecting. But that’s the thing about Happy Valley: It’s full of pleasant surprises.

“Penn’s Cave exceeded expectations,” Moorhead said. “I learned the derivation of ‘Nittany,’ which I didn’t know about. That was pretty cool. 

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