Earlier this year, Friday July 13 to be exact, I witnessed what I always believed to be true. One day after the Freeh Report was released, this group of Penn State football players simply continued to go through life as they knew it.
Their spirit was contagious for the thousands of fans on hand for the annual Lift For Life event on the lacrosse field in the shadow of Beaver Stadium under the cloud of the Freeh Report and the impending NCAA sanctions.
And nearly five months later, standing at 8-4, this Penn State football senior class is being recognized for their courage and fortitude in the face of adversity by one of the leading football awards organizations in the country.
I’m very lucky in my role with Uplifting Athletes, I get to work with the good kids at every school. But they never cease to amaze me. And this group of Penn State seniors faced unparalleled challenges.
And to me, this group of Penn State seniors demonstrated that through all of this it was clear their priorities individually and collectively were never out of line. They chose to stay under a dark cloud that they had nothing to do with creating it. And the NCAA gave them the freedom to walk away.
Whether they stayed or left for another program, there were no guarantees under either situation. Only the negatives were guaranteed – no bowl game, no postseason, loss of scholarships and teammates transferring. It was up to them to create their own positives.
And by winning the Maxwell Football Club Thomas Brookshier Spirit Award in recognition of their commitment, leadership and outstanding effort this season, this group clearly demonstrated they were fully capable of not only navigating the unknown, but could also create their own positives at the same time.
What I knew to be true before November 5, 2011 when the Jerry Sandusky sex-abuse scandal broke, I believed it to be true after the Freeh Report was released in July and this Penn State senior class has proven it to be true today.