Penn State vs Purdue, Alma Mater

Penn State football players sing the alma mater arm-in-arm after the football game against Purdue at Beaver Stadium on Saturday, Oct. 5, 2019. The no. 12 Nittany Lions defeated the Boilermakers 35-7.

Nobody has ever questioned the bond in the Penn State locker room.

James Franklin has described his team as a family, and that’s evident every time the media talks to a player.

The events of this week has made that bond even stronger.

Earlier this week, Penn State safety Jonathan Sutherland received a letter from an alumnus, criticizing his hair.

The letter led to many members of the team taking to social media in solidarity with Sutherland, illustrating the chemistry that grew over the course of the week.

“Yea I think we we’re a really close team in the first place, we have each other’s backs no matter what. I think this situation brought us closer more…” kicker Jake Pinegar said. “This situation brought out the family atmosphere at Penn State, and made “We Are” appropriate.”

Purdue, Jonathan Sutherland (26)

Safety Jonathan Sutherland (26) tackles Purdue’s running back King Doerue (22) during the homecoming game against Purdue at Beaver Stadium on Saturday, Oct. 5, 2019. No. 12 Penn State defeated Purdue 35-7.

Sport in its purest form brings people together. It’s been doing that for decades. And for the team, the community and the state, this just gets even stronger, as James Franklin eloquently discussed Tuesday.

“PSU Football brings people together like very few things on this planet,” Franklin said. “110,000 fans from all different backgrounds throughout our region, from all different parts of the state; and they are hugging and high-fiving and singing Sweet Caroline together.”

That togetherness reaches far beyond the stands, as on the field, in the locker room and on social media, they have always had each other’s backs.

“I think that any time we hit some adversity, such as things like this, it brings us closer together,” offensive lineman Will Fries said. “You know, although those remarks were negative, I think that as a team, we realize, we've always got each other's backs. As you see with those things on social media.”

Cornerback Lamont Wade, someone who never shies away from discussing social issues, said that while they don’t focus on this stuff too much, the team and James Franklin were “fired up” about it.

“I guess in several ways you could say [it’s brought the team together] but I feel like our bond has been strong in this locker room,” Wade said. “Bonds can always improve… It is something that definitely helps.”

Sutherland took to Twitter Tuesday to post a note, commenting on the letter, and instead of criticizing the person who wrote the letter, he decided to take the high road.

Pitt, Sutherland (26), Celebration

Penn State Nittany Lions safety Jonathan Sutherland (26) celebrates after a stopping a kickoff return during the game against the University of Pittsburgh at Beaver Stadium on Saturday, Sept 14, 2019.

He forgave the writer, writing, in part, "I forgive this individual because I'm nowhere close to perfect and I expect God to forgive me for all the wrong I've done in my life."

According to his teammates, this is just the type of person Sutherland is.

“He's really the gold standard of character in our locker room,” Fries said. “He's an outstanding, not only player, but just human being in general. He's always working out, doing extra stuff, extra treatment, and like I said, his character is extremely high. He takes pride in academics and things like that.”

“He's my locker neighbor and I'm proud to be next to him because he's an outstanding human being.”

The note made it seem like Sutherland isn’t thinking about it too much, but if he does and if it does bother him, the rest of his team will be there for him now more than ever.

“If Jonathan is going through it emotionally, we'll carry him throughout the whole time and making sure he's okay and things like that,” linebacker Micah Parsons said. “We're just going to come together even more and just be the brotherhood that we are.”

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