“I guess I wasn't one of those kids who was fanatic about football,” Stupar said. “I also played basketball and lacrosse and baseball. I really didn't know what my true calling was at that point. I didn't have any favorite teams or a favorite sport at that time. Growing up, I really enjoyed staying at home and watching the game on TV instead of sitting in the stands baking in the hot sun and getting dehydrated. You could be in the air conditioning, use the bathroom whenever you wanted and have free food.”
But Stupar wasn't a very dedicated coach potato. After fielding scholarship offers from a dozen schools, including West Virginia and Virginia, Pitt, Stanford and Arizona State, the State College High standout committed to Penn State in May 2006 and went from being a spectator to a participant. So far, it's worked out pretty well for both player and team.
A redshirt sophomore, Stupar filled in Saturday when starting outside linebacker Navorro Bowman had to leave the Lions' opener against Akron with a groin injury. He finished with a game-high 12 tackles, including eight solo stops and a sack.
It's uncertain whether Bowman will be ready to play Saturday against Syracuse, but the Lions don't want the injury to linger, so there's strong reason to believe he will have a reduced role or will sit out entirely. Stupar is preparing accordingly. “You've got to go into any game mentally prepared,” he said.
Stupar's family has a long football history. One of his grandfathers, Frank Stupar, played for Tennessee. His father, Steve Stupar, was a Penn State defensive lineman in the late 1970s. Three of his uncles -- Ron, Doug and Jeff Hostetler -- played for the Nittany Lions, with Jeff later transferring to West Virginia before leading the New York Giants to a Super Bowl title. Older brother Jonathan starred at Virginia as a tight end and was recently signed to the Buffalo Bills' practice squad. Younger brother Rob is a fullback at Youngstown State.
Stupar grew up a Penn State fan, but traveling with Jonathan on recruiting visits to Florida State, Virginia and West Virginia broadened his perspective and led him to consider other options when it came time for him to pick a college. He chose Penn State in large part because it offered the media studies curriculum he wanted.
Now that his playing career is starting to take off, he's pleased with the way things have worked out. And one of the reasons for his enthusiasm is the game day excitement he used to find uncompelling.
“The atmosphere is just insane with all the students and the stadium being packed every single home game,” Stupar said. “Knowing that you're playing for more than yourself and the team but for the whole community -- it's just so much fun to go out there and play for them.
“Sometimes I walk through the [football] building and see my dad's or uncles' names written on the wall. It's exciting to know that my name is going to be a part of that wall, too.”