I learned very early in my days on the Penn State beat that asking players or coaches about the large elephants in the proverbial room was fruitless. Those first couple weeks this late summer, any question about the Jerry Sandusky scandal or the resulting crippling NCAA sanctions was met with an evasive answer. Clearly, the edict had been sent in no uncertain terms from coach Bill O’Brien: We’re not talking about that anymore. We only look forward.
But with the second full season since *everything* happened about to close, Nittany Lions players are in a more reflective mood. Senior Day will do that, particularly for the upperclassmen. Among the many things the three prominent seniors who were made available to the media at large this week were asked to look back on, Glenn Carson, Malcolm Willis and Ty Howle commented on the team’s/program’s/school’s/community’s remarkable recovery from the, well… you know what the events of the past two years have been. Here are their answers.
“We’ve put that behind us. This whole season we’ve been focused on the next game and this season. So I mean, honestly, we don’t ever really talk about it. We don’t ever mention it. But I know going through it it’s shaped a lot of us and made us stronger. So we’re happy for the opportunity we’ve had here at Penn State.”
(Asked if he still thinks about it) “Not so much. I think for so long I’ve just been trying to block it out – that was kind of the only means of survival at a point. I’m sure one day I’ll look back and really realize how crazy of a time that was for me, but for now and until I’m done it’s just something we went through and just pushed through and we just kind of looked at football and always kind of stayed on task. We have saying… ‘Continue the mission.’ That’s what we’ve done here so far. We really haven’t thought about it too much.”
“I like to think that we’ve moved on. We’ve tried to regain ourselves. Just try to take every day one day at a time. We’re at the end of the season this year and it’s flown by. It seems like it was so long ago that everything happened. So we’re really just trying to take it one day at a time, like I said.”
As I wrote last week, the fact this team has gone 14-8 and 9-5 in the Big Ten over these first two seasons post-sanctions is nothing short of remarkable. I think Carson might have said it best: There will be a point when all these players will be able to look back and let it sink in just how bizarre/unprecedented/trying times those were to endure. Remember, none of these players had even one shred of a connection to the truly horrific acts that led to the events of Nov. 2011 through July 2010. But they will likely forever shape their lives and their legacies.