The Secondary Team

Allen Robinson.

Sam Ficken.

Christian Hackenberg.

These three names have become so commonplace, thrown around at the dinner table or during random conversation when talking about Penn State Football. They roll off the tongue without any sort of thought as to who these people really are. These people are just like us though, except they go out and play football in front of hundreds of thousands of people every weekend. They work hard for something they love, and for that reason, they represent the university with their name. But what about the name Colin Harrop? Certainly not a recognizable name, which makes sense given he is a third string safety, someone people might consider just another secondary player. But this name stands for our team just as much as Robinson or Ficken. This name holds behind it a story that can compare, if not beat, the stories of some of the more well-known players on our team. This is a name to remember.

Harrop came from a moderately large high school, where he was a second-team All-Lancaster-Lebanon League defensive back his senior year. He had been scouted by a couple of division III schools, Albright and Ursinus to name a few, but nothing extraordinary in his eyes. He had always wanted to go to Penn State, his sister currently attends and his brother had graduated a few years back. So he decided to go for it. He committed to Penn State, figuring he would have to tryout for the team as a walk-on if he ever hoped to accomplish his dream of playing at Beaver Stadium.

One belief that ran true for Harrop throughout all his attempts to join the team was to just go for it. He just went for it when he asked to speak to Coach Butler, the defensive coordinator, when the coach visited Harrop’s high school in the hopes of scouting a different student. He just went for it when he snuck into the football building at the start of his freshman year and left a highlight tape on Coach Butler’s desk. He just went for it when he was one of more than ninety students attempting to walk on to the team in the fall of his freshman year. Looking back on all these pivotal moments in his life, Harrop never regretted the decisions he made, not for a second.

After his period of just going for it, overcoming obstacles, both mental and physical, was another thing Harrop had to do a lot of on his journey to becoming a member of our team. He overcame the obstacle of receiving a rejection letter after his first audition. Eventually, he received one explaining that the people on the other end messed up and they want him on the team. He overcame the obstacle of having to work out by himself, not with the rest of the team, until the spring semester. From September until November, working out, school, and working out some more were all his life consisted of. Self-motivation at its best. But the biggest obstacle he overcame was the grueling winter workouts. After every Tuesday of sled pulls, he would be puking, and Friday team workouts at 5:15 a.m. opened his eyes to the world of college football and the hard work that went in to every game and every play. Harrop was battered and beat, but he came back ready for more with every week or training under his belt.

Fast forward to today and you will see Harrop in a new light. Since he began this journey he has not only grown as a football player, but as an individual. He is official a member of the team, he wears the same jersey and comes out of the same tunnel that all the other players do. The path he took to get to that tunnel was just a little bit different.

Now you may think I’m just writing this to show how hard a good friend of mine worked to get on to the football team. But that’s where you would be wrong. The real point of this article is to show that the secondary team is the future, and they need to be treated as something more important than what they may seem like at this moment. It’s true, right now they aren’t getting much, if any, playing time. They aren’t making the big plays on 3rd down and 1 yard to go. They aren’t giving out signatures to young and old sports fans alike. But they are preparing for the day they do. It’s a shame that we can’t explore the true potential that these players possess until something happens to the first string. But until that moment, that opportunity, arises, they need to be treated like the underdog hero, ready to break loose and create history when given the chance. They are like the armed services of the football world, ready to serve and protect, at any time or day, at a moment’s notice. But they are only truly appreciated after their first game-changing moment, not when they are standing on the sidelines, waiting to hear their name called.

But until then, they will be ready. Ready to take the field. Ready to be the next Ficken, the next Hackenberg. Ready to be the future of Penn State Football.

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The Crowd Impact

Saying the fourth quarter of Saturday’s game was a massacre would be an understatement. With three unanswered touchdowns in a row by the Hoosiers, and then a safety to seal the deal, things were looking very bleak for our football team, and especially for their record of never having lost to Indiana in football. Even though I personally wasn’t at the game, as I sat in the comfort of my friend’s apartment, snacking on homemade nacho dip, I couldn’t help but think that I was somehow responsible for the loss. That even though I am only one student out of over 20,000 attending Penn State, hundreds of miles away from Memorial Stadium, with no tie to how the team performs, I was to blame.

This thought crosses my mind often, the question of how much impact one person really has, whether it is impacting a football game, or a vote, or a contest. As a member of the Blue Band, our job is to pump up the team, the student section, and the rest of Beaver Stadium, no matter the score or the weather. We scream and yell and play our hearts out with the thought that we hold the fate of each play in our hands. I keep the same traditions for every single game, eating the same breakfast, wearing the same clothes, complete with game day button and lucky underwear, and screaming before each defensive play with every ounce of breath I can muster up. I do this in the hopes that the opposing team will hear just a little bit less and that my single voice will have the power to cover up the directions being given by the other team’s quarterback. And all this with the fear that if I don’t, something will go terribly wrong. An interception returned for a touchdown by the opposing team, all because I didn’t do my job.

Some readers may think I am crazy, but I believe we, the crowd, control the outcome of the football game. Home field advantage wasn’t just a made up concept. It can mean the world of a difference in the eyes of a team, especially ours. Imagine how much easier it would be to play with your student body and fans there to cheer you on to victory, opposed to a crowd filled with screaming idiots, constantly heckling you and jeering at your mistakes. That is why the most important job at a football game is held by us. Being the reason that one player may put in one more ounce of energy into one play, potentially changing the game. We may only be on the field in spirit, never leaving an imprint in the grass of Beaver Stadium, but the passion of our voices together will inspire the shoes that do.