STATE COLLEGE, Pa.—The Penn State football players looked on stoically as two of their teammates announced to the world: “We’re going to see this thing through.”
There were no smiles or slaps on the back among the more than 30 Nittany Lions who huddled outside the school’s football facility yesterday morning.
“We want to let the nation know that we’re proud of who we are,” senior fullback Michael Zordich said, flanked by his fellow players.
“We’re the true Penn Staters, and we’re going to stick together through this,” he stressed. “We’re going to see this thing through, and we’re going to do everything we can for the university.
“We know it’s not going to be easy, but we know what we’re made of.”
NCAA sanctions will keep the Nittany Lions out of a bowl game for the rest of these players’ careers, and college sports’ governing body is allowing any of them to transfer to another school and get on the field right away.
But yesterday, at least 13 players listed as first-stringers on the pre-season depth chart affirmed their commitment to staying in Happy Valley, including senior quarterback Matt McGloin.
Neither Zordich nor senior linebacker Michael Mauti—both sons of former Penn State players—mentioned former assistant coach Jerry Sandusky by name during the impromptu news conference, where they didn’t take any questions after reading a statement.
“We take this as an opportunity to create our own legacy,” Mauti said. “This program was not built by one man and it’s sure as hell not going to get torn down by one man.
“This program was built on every alumni, every single player that came before us, built on their backs,” he stressed.
The Nittany Lions can’t play in a bowl game until the 2016 season after an unprecedented child sex abuse scandal that shattered the program’s image as a place where “success with honour” was the rule.
The scholarship reductions they’ll receive could make it difficult for new coach Bill O’Brien to field a competitive squad during the next few seasons.
That’s why support will be needed from fans and alumni more than ever, the players said.
“We’re going to do everything in our power to get this place back on track,” Zordich pledged. “I’m personally calling out every member of Nittany Nation—all the students, faculty, fans and family members, alumni, everything that there is.
“Please, please come support us through this, because we need you just as much as you need us.
“And together, we’re going to get through this thing to the end,” he added.
Mauti is expected to be a leader on the defensive side while McGloin won the starting quarterback job during spring practice.
On Twitter, McGloin called the NCAA penalties “extremely harsh.”
“I am a Nittany Lion and will remain one,” he tweeted. “I believe in the core values I have learned in this program.
“It is not Nittany Lion football. It is Nittany Lion family.”
But some players will weigh whether to transfer, with other schools wooing them.
Illinois spokesman Kent Brown confirmed a group of assistant coaches travelled to State College yesterday to talk to some Nittany Lions players.
Brown said Illini athletic director Mike Thomas informed Penn State of the trip.