LOS ANGELES -- In the late 1920s, just about the time a young boy named Joseph Vincent Paterno was born into a Brooklyn Italian family, Pennsylvania was the country's leading producer of coal.
With much of the country dependent on coal for heating and steel production, Pennsylvania's economy flourished.
Eighty years, and 383 coaching victories later, coal no longer fuels a majority of America's furnaces and many of Pennsylvania's mines and steel mills have shut down.
While Pennsylvania's political, economical and societal landscape has changed dramatically during the past few decades, the national perception of the Keystone State remains rooted in the past.
That irks some Penn State players, especially linebacker Tyrell Sales.
"I don't want to offend anybody, but somebody wrote an article about how we're all just a bunch of coal miners and stuff like that," the Butler, Pa., native said. "I've never been 50 miles from a coal mine in my life."
The Los Angeles Times column Sales referred to called Pennsylvania, "the land of the endless coal mine."
But an unofficial poll of 15 randomly selected Nittany Lion players and coaches revealed only one had ever set foot inside the cavernous depths of a coal mine.
That was, of course, defensive coordinator Tom Bradley, who hails from the steel town of Johnstown, Pa.
Bradley knows all about Pennsylvania's coal history because he's worked in the steel mills and been exposed to it all his life.
His players, meanwhile, have had to field questions asking how different sunny California is from dreary Pennsylvania, but the questions have carried a tone that Pennsylvania is almost a whole different, subservient country from California.
That tone has struck a chord with some players, especially Sales.
"I just look at it like, 'I'm a coal miner, what are you talking about?' You act like everybody lives in a coal mine and it rains every day, it doesn't," Sales said. "If you've never been there you wouldn't know, you only see what you see on TV and all you see is steel mills on TV."
While many early 20th century Pennsylvanians wielded pick axes and lanterns, the players on this Penn State squad are more likely seen holding an iPhone or a Bluetooth headset.
Contrary to what some in sunny Southern California may believe, the Internet has made its way to Happy Valley, there are stoplights in the town and every once an a while a big blue truck brings boxes of mail over the mountain (although not on Sundays).
While Sales said the tone of the questions is what irked him the most, he was quick to mention that being a coal miner is a noble profession and nothing to be poked fun at.
Some of his teammates, like senior safety Mark Rubin, even went so far as to take the comparison as a compliment.
He said if people from California want to stereotype the Lions as coal miners that's fine because miners and mill workers are some of the toughest workers around.
"I don't think there's anything wrong with being a coal miner," Rubin said. "I think the East Coast takes pride in being blue-collar workers.
"Pennsylvania, with all of the steel mills and stuff, I don't think that's a bad thing to roll up your sleeves and go to work every day to make a hard-earned living. So if that's how we play football, that's fine."