No matter who was talking, the themes were the same.
Before an overflow crowd of media members, the Penn State football team held its annual Media Day Thursday morning at Beaver Stadium and it was clear that everybody wanted to move forward and move forward together. It was also unanimous among players that coach Bill O’Brien was the man to lead that move.
“This is a special place,” said O’Brien, who has had a tumultuous first seven months on the job. “We all have to come together and realize why we’re in the position we’re in.”
O’Brien knows there are factions of lettermen and board members that want to fight the NCAA and its sanctions.
“It’s just my opinion, but I think we have to move forward,” he said. “We have to stop arguing about it.
“I respect everybody’s opinion to do what they think is right. But I have to make sure the football team does a good job of coming together and playing as good as football as they can play - and then being good in the community. We have to move forward.
That’s my goal with this football team. And hopefully that helps the university.”
The players echoed those sentiments.
Without mentioning any of the players that transferred by name, the Penn State players on hand Thursday wished the transfers well but all said it was time for the next man in line to stand up.
“We wish them well,” said senior quarterback Matt McGloin. “But we have guys that are ready to step in and be as good or better. That’s the attitude we have to have.”
Michael Zordich and Michael Mauti, both of whom were passionate supporters of the program at Big Ten Media Days earlier this month, continued to be so Thursday.
“I wouldn’t want anybody else at the head of this thing,” Mauti said of O’Brien. “We all want to move forward and he’s the one that’s doing it.
“This program was built by hundreds of guys – not just one. And not just one guy is going to tear it down. We have really taken it upon ourselves to carry this forward.”
Zordich was just as enthusiastic.
“At the end of the day we kept, what, 77 or 78 of 85 scholarship guys,” he said. “I think that’s a statement right there.”
Zordich also talked about how the student body is ready for the season to start.
“It’s amazing how ready everybody is for us to start,” he said. “I’ve never seen the other students so ready to go.”
Bill Belton, who will be a major part of the offense now that Silas Redd has transferred, feels the same energy.
“These fans are great,” he said. “We know it’s going be crazy come September 1.”
If moving forward and togetherness was an obvious theme of the day, so was the desire to show the world that Penn State football didn’t die with the NCAA sanctions.
While being careful to not sound offensive, coach and players, alike, feel that they will play this year with the “chip on their shoulder” or with the “us against the world” mentality.
“We have to be very, very mindful of that,” O’Brien said of the ‘us against the world mentality.’ “When we go in the competitive arena I can see that happening. But at the end of the day, these kids understand why we’re in the position we’re in. This is more than just about football, this is about helping a community, this is about making people aware of child abuse. This is about leading this university – in the small way that we can.”
McGloin was more direct.
“That’s the way it is right now – us against the world,” the quarterback said. “But at the same time it’s still football. I’m proud to be here. The team is proud to be here.
“And there is no person in the world better to lead us right now than [O’Brien]. He’s done a phenomenal job. We’re behind him 110%. He has the support of the team and the support of the fans.”
The games will finally begin Sept.1 at home against Ohio and the players are hoping for that support to be a big part of this season.
Marty Valania covers Penn State football for nittanylionsden.com. Follow him @EastRecruiting on Twitter.
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