With the start of Penn State football season less than two months away, the excitement for a normal college slate is apparent across the country.
But for Nittany Lion fans, it’s a chance to get back to tradition and support the blue and white from inside the confines of historic Beaver Stadium.
It’s a place that has seen a lot of great players in its 60-plus year run from multiple eras of the program.
With that, here’s a list of the top players to ever put on the uniform by jersey number, beginning with Nos. 0-9.
0: Jonathan Sutherland, 2017-present
Penn State captain Jonathan Sutherland became the first Nittany Lion to ever wear the No. 0 prior to the 2020 season.
This came after the NCAA made a ruling that allowed players to wear the number after it had been outlawed from the college game for decades.
James Franklin decided the number should have meaning within his program and would ultimately award it to a player who contributes a significant leadership role within the team.
Sutherland fit that bill to perfection, as his play on special teams and his ability to lead by example made him a no-brainer for the honor — especially considering how he handled the letter sent by a fan in 2019 calling his shoulder-length dreadlocks “disgusting.”
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1: KJ Hamler 2017-2019
While at Penn State, KJ Hamler became one of the most electric players in program history.
The short but speedy wide receiver did it all in just two seasons playing for the Nittany Lions as his versatility out of the slot was often utilized in some of the biggest moments for Franklin and his staff.
He racked up 1,658 receiving yards and 14 total touchdowns in just two seasons on the field for the blue and white, which put him on pace to break the all-time receiving record at Penn State had he stayed for two more years.
But for a dynamic playmaker like Hamler, the NFL came calling, and he went in the second round to the Denver Broncos in 2020 following his redshirt sophomore season.
2: Derrick Williams, 2005-2008
During Derrick Williams’ tenure as a Penn State wide receiver, the Nittany Lions went on a pretty solid run during his four seasons.
This included trips to four bowl games and three wins, featuring both Orange and Rose Bowl appearances.
Williams was able to put up some pretty consistent numbers throughout his time in Happy Valley while playing in all 13 games for each of his final three seasons.
He finished his Penn State career with 17 total touchdowns and 161 receptions — which is good for fifth-most in program history.
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3: Deon Butler, 2005-2008
Like Williams, Deon Butler was an integral part of Penn State’s success following the down years of the early 2000s.
But his success as a wide receiver was something not expected the day he stepped foot on campus, as he was brought in as a walk-on defensive back for Joe Paterno.
He quickly began to make an impact, though, and would go down in the record books for the storied program.
Butler ranks second in program history in receptions and third in receiving yards but was known most for his legendary game against Northwestern in 2006 when he had a program record 216 receiving yards on 11 receptions in a 33-7 win over the Wildcats.
4: Journey Brown, 2017-2019
Journey Brown will go down as one of the biggest “what ifs” in Penn State history.
The running back had a stellar sophomore season in 2019, picking up over 1,000 yards from scrimmage and playing a large role in the Nittany Lions’ Cotton Bowl victory over Memphis.
In that game, he totaled 202 rushing yards and two touchdowns on just 16 carries, which was enough to earn him Cotton Bowl Offensive MVP honors.
Following that performance, many Nittany Lion fans were expecting Brown to become the next great running back in the program’s recent surge at the position.
But we now know that game was his last, as he was forced to medically retire from football after being diagnosed with a rare heart condition called hypertrophic cardiomyopathy just weeks before the 2020 season kicked off.
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