Offensive line coach Herb Hand’s love of pizza is only surpassed by his passion to give back to the Penn State community.
In a tweet sent out about two months ago by coach Hand, he said, “Quick stop at @PSULionsPride to pick up some swag for my kids followed by lunch at @CanyonPizzaPSU (get the General Tso's slice&thank me L8r).”
Little did he know, the tweet would go on to garner a lot more attention than he expected.
Immediately, the tweet sparked a fierce argument on Twitter over a longstanding debate: who has the best pizza in State College?
Using attention generated by the tweet, Onward State contacted coach Hand and organized a tour around State College pizza joints so students could decide for themselves.
Like a bar crawl but with “pizzaholics,” close to 200 people turned out to attend the Herb Hand Pizza Crawl yesterday, raising close to $5,000 for charity.
All the proceeds from the event were donated to the Penn State chapter of Uplifting Athletes and Kelsey Hirsch’s Bands4RAINN.
Uplifting Athletes is a non-profit organization aligned with college football teams to raise awareness and donations for diseases that don’t receive a lot of attention or funding because of their rarity.
Bands4RAINN is a bat mitzvah project that was started by Hirsch to raise money for sexual assault victims.
“At first, we were concerned about the turnout, but lots of students showed up,” said Hand. “One of the things I’ve learned about the Penn State community is that they are some of the most giving students around.”
To join, students paid a $20 entree fee in return for a slice of pizza at each restaurant, a commemorative t-shirt and a Bands4RAINN wristband.
Starting at Rotelli’s, Hand and attendees made their way through downtown, stopping at many pizza restaurants famous around State College.
Other stops included College Pizza, Canyon Pizza and Bell’s Greek Pizza. The event ended at Gumby’s with stomachs stuffed full of a wide assortment of pizzas.
“The plan is to have the pizza crawl grow, and we are considering the possibility of having it at the football stadium next year,” Hand said.
The attendees moved quickly from one restaurant to the next, spending 15 minutes at each destination to scarf down a slice.
At Bell’s, Hand gave out a signed football to raffle winner Michael Chahin.
“I came to the pizza crawl with my girlfriend, who loudly yelled out ‘you always win everything’ when I won,” said Chahin, a sophomore. “I don’t think I ever win anything, but I’m definitely going to hold on to this football.”
Most of the restaurants handed out pizza free of charge or at a dramatically reduced cost, making the pizza crawl possible.
After hearing about coach Hand’s favorite Canyon slice, the General Tso’s chicken pizza, the restaurant made a ton of it — maybe too much, Canyon employee Chyanne Rosenbaum said.
“When he came here and got a slice of pizza, Hand ran to the other side of the counter and hit the gong,” said Rosenbaum. “It was really funny and the whole thing was just really exciting.”
At the pizza crawl’s end, all the attendees squeezed together to take a group picture with the coach.
Then, students lined up to talk to Hand and get a picture with him, wishing him luck with the next football season.
Benjamin T. Setcavage can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or (814) 865-1828. Follow him on Twitter at @Ben_Setcavage.