After the events of the last nine months, little can rattle the members of the Penn State football team. They've had to endure the fallout of the Jerry Sandusky scandal, the death of their former coach and the announcement of harsh NCAA sanctions against the program.
Tuesday morning brought another surprising development — but this time, of the positive variety.
In a show of support for the Penn State players, who've had nothing to do with all of the bad that has befallen the program, a crowd estimated between 3,000 and 4,000 showed up to cheer them on as they headed into their workout.
Which may not seem like all that big of a deal until you realize the workout began at 7 a.m., and the throng of fans that packed the parking lot between the Lasch Football Building and the Holuba Hall indoor practice facility began to form hours earlier.
The event, conceived by former Nittany Lions Keith Conlin and Tim Sweeney, was tabbed Rise & Rally.
And the fans did just that. The area was jammed as players arrived, most of them walking from their on-campus apartments a short distance away.
“I knew there were going to be some (people), but I didn't know there was gonna be this many,” fullback Michael Zordich said. “Especially at six in the morning. I came through that seeing everybody, and I'm like, 'These people are crazy.' At the same time, you've got to love it.”
“There was an enormous amount of people out here,” added wideout Allen Robinson. “It was so big it gave me chills.”
The players went into Lasch Building to change for the workout. Then they headed to Holuba in a long, single-file line, going straight through a mob of fans who were unleashing deafening cheers.
“It was shocking, “ quarterback Matt McGloin said. “It was truly a great sight to see. It's definitely one of the top memories I've had here at Penn State. … You don't get this anywhere else. You're not going to go anywhere and find this type of support or this fan base.”
McGloin mentioned that because several Nittany Lions are considering transferring due to the NCAA sanctions. One of the sanctions allows Penn State players to transfer immediately and to be eligible to play at another FBS school immediately.
Fans hoping to see Redd at this event were disappointed. But it was about the only negative for Penn State backers who stopped by. In a surprise move, Nittany Lion strength coach Craig Fitzgerald opened the outdoor portion of the 40-minute workout to the public. Hundreds of fans streamed into the fenced-in outdoor practice field next to Holuba and applauded the players as they lifted barbells and ran.
When the workout was complete, the players summoned the fans onto the field for one huge group cheer. Before long, chants of, “We Are … Penn State!” went up.
As the big huddle broke, players signed autographs and posed for photos.
“It shows you what Penn State's all about,” Zordich said. “It's not just in the locker room. It's through the whole campus and all through the state. It's awesome. I can't thank these (fans) enough.”