As practice was going on, Patrick Northup-Moore — a 27-year-old team manager for the Penn State men’s basketball team — was performing his usual duties, grabbing rebounds and lending a helping hand when needed.
That is, until the “Rocky” theme song came on.
Mirroring Rocky Balboa’s famous run up the steps of the Philadelphia Museum of Art, the energetic manager did the same, but inside the Bryce Jordan Center.
After noticing Patrick’s plight, coach Patrick Chambers and his staff stopped practice and the team huddled around their manager when he came down the steps.
“He just brings that fighter’s mentality,” senior guard Nick Colella said.
Getting pumped up to the theme song of “Rocky” hasn’t been the only time Patrick has showed this kind of intensity.
In fact, that attitude is something that has encompassed Patrick’s life from the moment of birth.
Close to three decades ago, Patrick was born in Bryn Mawr — a suburb of Philadelphia — with the diagnosis of Down syndrome.
Down syndrome, also known as trisomy 21, is “a genetic condition that causes delays in physical and intellectual development,” according to the National Association for Down Syndrome.
“When you find out your child has a disability, you’re taken aback a little bit,” said Pat Moore, Patrick’s father. “But he’s our child. He might be different than someone else, but he’s our son.”
As Patrick’s dad noted, finding out their son was diagnosed with Down syndrome was enough to stress them out.
But unfortunately for the family, it didn’t stop there.
Patrick’s parents also learned shortly thereafter that their son was born without an esophagus. While Patrick eats normally now, it took five years to establish an operational esophagus.
“Until he was five, he had a series of surgeries at Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia where they constructed his esophagus out of a piece of his colon,” Pat Moore said.
Labeled a colonic interposition, the surgery broke up parts of Patrick’s colon inside his body and surgeons attempted to make an esophagus out of it.
However, the first try was a failed attempt when Patrick was just two years old.
Consequentially, a second procedure had to be delayed a year. During that period, Patrick was fed via a feeding tube and he underwent more roadblocks before stabilizing.
“It was very hard for Patrick,” his father said. “He was in intensive care for most of that time and had blood and staph infections. He was close to death a couple of times. But, he’s quite a resilient person.”
Turning to sports
After spending several years in the Greater Philadelphia area, Patrick and his family moved to State College where his father would become the school district’s special education director in 1995.
Not only did he fill the role as director, but Pat Moore also helped found LifeLink PSU.
LifeLink PSU, established in 2001, provides special-needs students between the ages of 18 and 21 within the State College Area School District the opportunity to interact with Penn State students and get a taste of the college life.
With the help of Teri Lindner, Patrick was set up with his “dream job” with the Penn State basketball team.
Lindner, a partial founder of LifeLink PSU, said she contacted former Penn State assistant coach Eldon Price in 2008 about getting Patrick involved with the program.
Lindner said Price and the team were immediately receptive of the idea for Patrick to come in as a team manager.
“We set it up where Patrick would have a mentor come with him to help him get used to everything and learn the ropes,” Lindner said. “But, it was no time at all until he was off on his own.”
Lindner said the reason why he caught on so quickly was because being a team manager wasn’t new to him.
Not only did Patrick play basketball for the Special Olympics, but he was also a team manager throughout high school for several baseball teams.
In fact, Lindner said they even drafted up a “sports resume” for Patrick.
“This wasn’t the case where we were asking an individual with special-needs because it would be a fun experience,” Lindner said.
“He knows what to do as a sports manager. He knows when he needs to be doing things and when he needs to stay on the sidelines. He’s not an individual who is going to get in the way of anybody.”
And for Patrick, it’s just being around the team and having fun that he enjoys the most.
“The games [are my favorite part],” Patrick said as he started laughing at the thought of what he would say next. “Also, this is sort of silly, but I’m going to say it. It’s not a Penn State song, but I dance to [‘Footloose’] in the locker room and the whole team loves it.”
After signing on with the basketball program in 2008, Patrick was a team manager for Ed DeChellis until the former head coach left Happy Valley for the same position at Navy.
Following his departure, the Penn State athletic department brought in a new face in Chambers to be the next head coach in June 2011.
Typically, a new head coach’s first order of business is to hire a supporting cast of assistant coaches.
Chambers, on the other hand, went a different route.
“I think [Patrick] was my first hire here to be honest,” Chambers said with a chuckle. “When I got here I received an email from his dad or somebody who told me about him and I said, ‘Don’t worry, he’s in.’ ”
After finding out his son would be retained, Pat Moore said words couldn’t explain how his son felt.
“It meant the world to Patrick. It’s just something that he looks forward to so much in his life,” Patrick’s dad said. “I don’t know that I can put into words what it means to him. He loves it.”
In terms of being around the locker room, the Lions felt the same way about Patrick as their coach did.
Not only does he entertain the players with his antics like “Rocky,” but also keeping things light has been what many think Patrick has done the best.
“Times get hard and people get frustrated,” guard Jermaine Marshall said in the midst of the team’s 14-game Big Ten losing streak. “Heads may drop, but around here we just try to keep a positive environment and Pat keeps the environment light and makes sure we have fun.”
For example, Colella said he’s always high-energy whether he’s having small talk while rebounding for the team or talking to the senior guard about professional wrestling.
“I watch [WWE] wrestling once in a while and he’s a big wrestling fan, so he comes in and tells me what’s going on,” Colella said. “He comes in and he does John Cena’s [signature] move all the time so he has a lot of energy.”
During that grueling losing streak, Chambers said Patrick’s attitude actually helped the team get through it all.
Chambers said Patrick’s charisma and humor aren’t overlooked, and his presence in the locker room is enjoyable to be a part of.
“I think he not only inspires me and the coaching staff, but also our players,” Chambers said. “They look at him and he’s always got a smile on his face. He’s positive. He’s upbeat. He’s energetic… He’s a great reminder to stay positive and continue to work hard.”
Despite a handful of losing seasons, the team manager has also witnessed a few of the high points for the program, including an NIT championship in 2009 and an NCAA tournament bid the following year.
However, Patrick said — after several moments of contemplation — his favorite memory with the basketball team came this year when the Lions upset then-No. 4 Michigan on Feb. 27.
“Oh wow. Man I think this [question] is a big one,” Patrick said. “On my birthday I watched the game — I wasn’t there — but I can’t believe they won that game [against Michigan].”
Patrick, who rarely misses a home game, wasn’t able to be at the Bryce Jordan Center to see the Lions pull off one of the biggest upsets of the year.
Instead, he was forced to watch it on TV because of another roadblock.
In the days leading up to the Michigan game, Patrick was admitted to the hospital for pneumonia.
And after leaving and watching the upset from his home, Patrick’s mother, Kris, said he had been in and out of the hospital for the past couple of weeks.
While Patrick was allowed to head home from the hospital on Thursday, Patrick’s father said they have a consultation next week for lung surgery at Hershey Medical Center.
Regardless of all these setbacks, Pat Moore said his son’s frame of mind hasn’t wavered.
“You know, the medical struggles he’s gone through,” Patrick’s dad said. “…His uncompromisingly pleasant demeanor all the time, I would say it’s inspirational. Inspirational.”