During the fourth quarter of last week’s game against Idaho, there wasn’t much for the crowd to be excited about.
Every time Penn State added to its huge lead, there was a sense of mild content from the handful of fans left in the stadium.
But for most of the Nittany Lions, the last touchdown was the most special.
When redshirt junior Nick Eury broke the plane of the end zone, after bulldozing his way through a handful of Vandal defenders, the team erupted with excitement, which both pleased and worried James Franklin.
“To see Nick Eury score a touchdown and how our sideline reacted,” Franklin said Saturday when discussing the positives of the game, “I was a little worried that we were going to get penalties because guys were running on the field without helmets.”
Eury had only one carry in his career before Saturday, which went for four yards back in 2017.
It was a successful day for all of Penn State’s running backs, but Journey Brown was ecstatic to see his teammates get in on the action.
“Seeing one of my best friends, Nick Eury, I came in when he was a sophomore and I was a freshman and seeing him work every day, working hard and doing all that stuff is really fun,” Brown said.
Even though Eury hasn’t been a vital part to the game lineup over the past few years, he has been an important part of the team.
Franklin appreciates the value that Eury brings to practice, and the program as a whole.
“Yeah, he's just a guy that comes to work every single day,” Franklin said. “He's got a huge smile on his face. He's very appreciative and goes out and gets his team better every single day by the way he practices, whether that's in drills, whether that's on our developmental squad, whether that's for the defense, whether that's for the offense.”
On Tuesday Franklin recalled a moment where Eury was so important to the team that without him, practice couldn’t have happened.
“I don't know when it was, but there was a camp a few years ago where we had some injuries, and literally we wouldn't have been able to have camp without Nick Eury,” Franklin said. “He took like every rep in practice. We built water breaks in for him because he was the only one going.”
Even after a big moment like that, he’s still not the player that gets the attention. For the fans, the stars get all of the attention.
But Franklin knows in their building, guys like Eury are respected and needed.
“You see a guy like Saquon Barkley, these are the guys that you're going to remember,” Franklin said. “I think obviously it's easy to remember the star players and the impact that they had, but I think on a team, in a brotherhood within our building and within our locker room, it's those guys that I think ultimately earn the most respect because it is all about the team, it is all about the university, it is all about the program, it is all about their teammates, because the reality is some of these guys may go four and five years and never see the field and never get that type of positive affirmation.”
Franklin added that he does it all during his time at Penn State, which makes him a valuable asset.
“He's just one of those guys, how he's been academically, how he's been socially, the type of teammate he's been. He's just been phenomenal,” Franklin said. “So I think everybody recognizes when you get guys like that and maybe their name is not in the newspaper, they're not getting playing time or so on and so forth, when those guys are able to have some success and get in the game, it means a lot.”
Now, Eury has inserted himself into the running back rotation, according to Franklin.
It was expected that the unit of Brown, Ricky Slade, Noah Cain and Devyn Ford would all get time, but now Eury may get some touches too.
“We probably could have listed five,” Franklin said when asked about the depth chart. “I think it’s quite the opposite when you have five running backs all score a touchdown and a couple with multiple. There’s a lot of people that are getting opportunities and are getting opportunities to make an impact in the game, and I think that creates a healthy position, and I think that creates a healthy locker room.”
Franklin knew that an opportunity would present itself to get guys like Eury in the game, and the program isn’t taking that for granted.
“I thought it was really valuable, obviously, but also really special for guys like Nick Eury to not only be able to get in a game but be able to play and run the offense and have a chance to score a touchdown,” Franklin said. “I know there’s a lot of different discussions about scoring and these types of games and things like that, but it’s my belief that you get the backups in the game and you allow them to play...
“A guy like Nick Eury scoring a touchdown, that’s something he’ll take with him the rest of his life, and he’s earned that. Really happy for that.”