Mitchell, the former Nittany Lion and Baltimore Colt tailback who was elected to the College Football Hall of Fame in 2004, was thrilled to be part of The Classic this year.
“I'm very privileged,” Mitchell said at the welcoming social at the Penn State Golf Courses Thursday night. “Jerry [Sandusky] asked me to do it. I certainly told him yes. It's a pleasure for me to be part of it. It's a great organization. What they do is wonderful. I've never had a chance to participate until last year because I was so busy. To be able to come back this year is special.”
Sandusky, of course, is the former Penn State defensive coordinator who founded The Second Mile and still plays key roles in the charity and the golf tournament. Not that he'll admit how important he is.
“I just kind of stand back and watch,” Sandusky said. “I don't do much. I just enjoy seeing all the volunteers and the committee and everybody giving so much time and effort.”
His former players tell a different story.
“I'm here every year for Jerry,” said Greg Buttle, a linebacker (1972-1975) who still holds the school records for career (343) and season (165) tackles. “I'm loyal to Jerry. I'm loyal to the cause. It's a wonderful cause, and he's been doing it since I was here. It's just grown exponentially over the past 20 years. It's spectacular. And he really does it. He works it, he does it, he lives it, and you've got to love a guy who does that.”
The man second on PSU's all-time tackles list, former linebacker Brian Gelzheiser (1991-94), agreed: “Jerry is why I am here. Jerry was the only reason I came to Penn State. He recruited me. I was a huge Pitt fan, but I liked Jerry and my family liked Jerry, so I came to Penn State because of Jerry.”
Mitchell (1969-71), who played for the Lions when Sandusky was a young assistant, knows how important the former Penn State aide is to the charity. And he has a good feel for his own star power, too. But to him, the real hero is the tournament itself, which has raised more than $2.5 million down through the years.
“What we're here to do is have a little fun and play a little golf,” he explained. “But the real reason we're here is for the kids. We're don't want to get in the way of that, because no one is bigger than the purpose.”
The tournament runs Friday and Saturday at the Penn State Golf Courses.