The atmosphere felt much more like a Saturday in September than a Tuesday in July.
Almost all dressed in blue and white, thousands of Penn State fans gathered at a football team workout early Tuesday morning for the "Rise and Rally" event. "We Are" chants were screamed with pride and a pep band played as Nittany Lion faithful proved the team still had the support of the community after the NCAA issued unprecedented sanctions to the school last week.
Fans who attended the rally did not have the luxury of sleeping in, as the team's workout started at 7 a.m., and people started gathering more than an hour earlier. And though it was early, it was still loud outside the Lasch Football Building as fans cheered boisterously for players just for arriving to the non-mandatory workout.
"People are happy to come up here and have something to cheer about, finally," said Keith Conlin, a former Penn State football player. "How long has it been since they've had something to cheer about around here? I think people couldn't wait until September 1st. When the word went out that it was dire that we get the core of the team to stay, the word went out and people answered."
Conlin, along with Tim Sweeney -- also a former Penn State player -- are the co-hosts of the radio broadcast "The Goon Show" which is where the idea for "Rise and Rally" came from.
According to Conlin, the concept of the rally was born when Penn State strength and conditioning Coach Craig Fitzgerald and secondary Coach John Butler joined his show last Thursday. Conlin said since there was a whole fan base asking what it could do to help a team going through some hardships, he felt something needed to be done.
"I had Coach Fitzgerald and Coach Butler on my radio show last week and we were talking and they said 'Hey man, we got to do something, these kids got to realize that we have their back,' " Conlin said. "So it was very, very, very impromptu. I said, 'What time is the workout?' Fitz said, 'Tuesday it'll be seven o'clock in the morning.' I said, 'We'll be there.' "
Though there was not much notice for the rally, Penn State fans still responded with large numbers as there were an estimated 3,000 fans outside the Lasch Building a little after sunrise.
Fans initially greeted players with loud applause as they showed up for a non-mandatory workout. The mass of Penn State faithful then got a rare opportunity to watch players run through some drills before having the chance to meet players and get pictures with them after the workout concluded.
The crowd was a collection of all sorts of Penn State fans. Current students, other student-athletes, alumni and their children were among those who awoke early to show their support and some pets were even on hand to back the football team.
Melissa Weinstock, a Penn State alum who now lives in West Hartford, Conn., not only made the five-hour trip to Happy Valley with her husband -- who is also a Penn State graduate -- and two kids. The family also brought its dog, Penny.
Named after Penn State, Penny, a goldendoodle, was wearing a No. 33 Penn State jersey as she laid on the sidelines while onlookers took in Penn State players on the practice field. Weinstock said she and her family get to go to Penn State games every year and she thought it was necessary to show the current players support.
Weinstock noted her family drove to State College on Monday night, and she was not surprised by the large turnout.
"I knew it would be exactly like this, that's what Penn State is all about," Weinstock said.
While fans made up the overwhelming majority of the crowd, there were some notable members of the Penn State athletic community in attendance. Sue Paterno, as well as coaches and players from the men's basketball, women's soccer and men's lacrosse teams among other squads were there showing their support for their fellow student-athletes.
"We talked to all the guys, they wanted to be here," men's basketball coach Patrick Chambers said. "They wanted to support the football program and obviously we wanted to show support for Penn State."
Penn State's workout ended with players inviting fans to join their huddle at the middle of the practice field. Fans and players jumped up and down before senior linebacker Michael Mauti broke the huddle by saying "family on three."
After the huddle dispersed, many players expressed their gratitude for the support, to which one supporter replied, "if you think this is impressive, wait until the fall."