Glenn Carson will make his 27th start at middle linebacker for Penn State on Saturday, when the Nittany Lions host Central Florida. The senior will also play in his 41st game, having never missed one in four collegiate seasons.
He attributes his durability to his dad.
Glenn Sr. was an All-American wrestler while also playing football at Trenton State (now The College of New Jersey) in his younger years, and became, his son said, a role model for toughing it out.
He always taught me to be tough and physical out there, Glenn Jr. said during a conference call with reporters Wednesday.
At Southern Regional High in Manahawkin, N.J., the younger Carson excelled in the same sports his dad had, reaching the state final three times in wrestling and being named an All-South Jersey football player.
He said Wednesday he wrestled in the state tournament with a torn meniscus in one knee as a sophomore, and a herniated disk as a senior. He also said he has had problems with the medial collateral ligament in one of his knees at Penn State, but nonetheless has more career starts than anyone else on the current roster. (Safety Malcolm Willis, with 19, has the second-most.)
Carson played special teams as a freshman in 2010, then started 12 games at linebacker each of the next two seasons. This fall he has stepped out of the sizable shadows cast by departed 'backers Michael Mauti and Gerald Hodges to make 16 tackles through two games. Among the Nittany Lions, only defensive tackle DaQuan Jones (18) has more.
But Carson is most proud of the fact that he always answers the bell.
It just really comes down to loving the game and not wanting to miss any of it, he said.
That, and wanting to emulate his dad.
Playing, he said, has kind of just been the norm for me. That's how I've been raised.
Carson had six tackles in the season-opening victory over Syracuse and was named player of the game, coach Bill O'Brien said Tuesday. He was also accorded special mention by the coaching staff after making 10 stops in last week's 45-7 rout of Eastern Michigan.
You can't say enough about Glenn Carson, O'Brien said during his weekly news conference Tuesday. He's a tough guy. He's improved. He's quicker. He's faster. He's stronger. He loves playing for Penn State. He believes, and I believe, he has a future in football.
Carson said his transformation is not merely physical.
I just feel a little bit more confident, he said. The game has slowed down for me, and I'm playing a little bit more reckless than I have. I've always been afraid to make mistakes. I'm just playing a little looser out there.
He said he and the other defenders face a good challenge this week from UCF, which is 2-0 after beating its first two opponents, Akron and Florida International, by a combined score of 76-7. O'Brien believes the Knights' quarterback, Blake Bortles, is a future pro, and Carson said he is definitely one of the better quarterbacks we've faced so far. (And never mind that the Lions have only faced two.)
Bortles has clicked on 30 of his 43 passes to date, for 528 yards and four touchdowns. He has not been intercepted. Carson also noted that the 6-foot-4, 230-pound redshirt junior runs well for a big guy, better than his stats -- 10 rushes, 24 yards -- might indicate.
It comes down to fundamental football, Carson said. If you have an opportunity to make a sack, you have to make it.
Linebackers Mike Hull (knee) and Ben Kline (shoulder) are expected to return Saturday for PSU, after missing last week's game. O'Brien called safety/holder Ryan Keiser questionable for this week, after he suffered an apparent head injury against EMU.
Carson? He never went anywhere, and never does. It's just how things are done in his family.