It was a class that stayed, enduring one of the most tumultuous years in Penn State football’s history.
But ask some of the team’s more prominent seniors and they’ll say their duty to the program is not complete. They have one more chance to demonstrate their legacy still remains.
The Nittany Lions take on Wisconsin Saturday at 3:30 p.m. in what will be the seniors’ final time suiting up in the blue and white uniforms.
Center Matt Stankiewitch said seniors hope to be remembered as a high-character group, but that cannot be established until after Saturday’s senior day contest.
“We look at this game as an opportunity to even show the nation more of how together we are as a team,” Stankiewitch said. “And what better way to show it than at our own stadium and in front of these fans.”
The senior class is already looked at as an influential corps of leaders after keeping the large majority of the team together in the wake of the events of the last year, especially the NCAA sanctions announced in July.
Coach Bill O’Brien said this senior class will surely be remembered for their play on the field, but it is their resolve off the field that will represent their legacy.
“They have been through the death of their former head coach, a legendary coach,” O’Brien said. “They have been through the things that went on off the field that don't need to be repeated, we just all know. They have hung tough, dealing with the NCAA and the sanctions that came out in the summertime. They've been through the fact that they had to lead this football team and keep these guys together.”
O’Brien said their ability to adjust to all of these major events at such a young age has led them to a place in the community’s heart that they will not be ever forgotten.
Yet, not only this, the team has gone on to rally together and produce what has been a successful showing on the field as well.
Defensive tackle Jordan Hill, who could also have left the team for the NFL draft prior to the sanctions, said his decision to stay is likely the best choice of his life.
"Not only on the field I got better, but off the field, just going through situations we went through has made me a better person for my life down the road,” Hill said. “I'll be able to tell my story of how we as a team overcame that."
Like Hill, who said he hopes reporters aren’t around when he starts to tear up Saturday, other seniors expressed a similar outlook on their last game in blue and white.
Linebacker Gerald Hodges, who may be looked at to spark the defensive unit on the field without injured Michael Mauti, said the thought of playing his final game as a Lion has constantly been on his mind, but rarely in a positive way.
“It’s always running through my mind. You think about it and it gets scary,” Hodges said. “It’s like a bittersweet feeling, but more bitter than it is sweet…doing it for one more time, it starts emotions.”