From the Publisher
"What makes [coaching at Penn State] so much fun and so enjoyable are the young men I have been associated with all this time. Many of them are adults now and successful in their own careershonest, hardworking, mature men raising their families and being leaders in their communities. . . .Theyre all part of our football family, not just the players who made the All-America teams or wear those national championship rings. I mean the walk-ons, too, the kids who rarely played or never played at allthe ones who went to practice day after day after day and never complained because they just wanted to be part of the Penn State tradition."from the foreword by Joe Paterno
From the Inside Flap
Penn State had been playing football for 63 years before Joe Paterno first stepped on campus as an assistant coach in 1950. The tradition and pride of the Nittany Lions were firmly entrenched by then, with future Hall of Fame coaches like Hugo Bedzek and Bob Higgins leading their teams to undefeated seasons and postseason bowl games. But it was Paterno, a disciple of another Hall of Fame coach, Rip Engle, who turned Penn State football into a symbol of high standards and integrity. No other coach in major college football has won more games at one school than Paterno has, with 354 and counting at the start of the 2006 season. That marked Paternos 40th year as Penn States head coach in Happy Valley, and it was another banner seasonwith an 111 record, a Big Ten title, an Orange Bowl championship and a third-place ranking in the national polls. In What It Means to Be a Nittany Lion, many of the men who played for Paterno and his predecessors tell, in their own words, what its like to wear those plain blue-and-white uniforms and black shoes. The players describe how Paterno and Penn States loyal assistant coaches molded their lives years ago and continue to influence them today. These are some of the greatest players in college football history, legends like Heisman Trophy winner John Cappelletti and Hall of Fame linebacker Jack Ham, who epitomizes Penn States enduring reputation as "Linebacker U." All-Americans Charlie Pittman, Dennis Onkotz, Dave Joyner, and others describe Paternos ultra-successful "Grand Experiment," which proved that great students can also be great football players. Some of the players never reached All-American status, but they made their mark in other ways, such as walk-on wide receiver Gregg Garrity, one of the stars of the 1983 Sugar Bowl victory over Georgia for Penn States first national championship. And Adam Taliaferro, whose miraculous recovery after a paralyzing injury in his freshman season became an inspiration for all Nittany Lions. Lenny Moore, Rosey Grier, and Dave Robinson, all of whom became stars in the NFL, reminisce about playing for Penn State in the pre-Paterno era. Wally Triplett, Penn States first black letterman, tells how the battle against racism put the 1947 team at the forefront of the civil rights movement, while Matt Suhey and his uncle Jim Dooley write about the Higgins-Suhey legacy that dates back to 191l and Suheys grandfather Bob Higgins, the man who recruited and coached Triplett. Stars like Curt Warner and Shane Conlan relive their experiences during the eighties, a decade in which Penn State won two national championships. There are the tales of Jeff Hartings, an undersized lineman coming out of high school who became a two-time All-American guard and a two-time academic All-American, and another academic All-American, Paul Posluszny, who added to the legend of "Linebacker U" by winning the 2005 Butkus Award and leading Penn States resurgence. Theres also the story of a Nittany Lion mascot, not a football player but a young gymnastics coach, named Gene Wettstone, who fortuitously became the team mascot in 1939 and then went on to coach more NCAA gymnastic national championship teams than anyone in history. For anyone who wants to learn or just reminisce about what it means to be a Nittany Lion, this book is a must-have for your library.