Penn State vs. Navy
Opening game of the Penn State Season, 1968
Home Game @ Beaver Stadium
On a sunny fall day in State College, a record-breaking crowd of fans has assembled for Penn State's opening game against the Naval Academy. Now a sophomore, I’ve been waiting for this day for my whole life, the first time I am eligible to play varsity in college. It’s a dream come true. I can hear the sound of the band and see the cheerleaders waving pom-poms in front of us, while we wait for the signal from Joe Paterno. When Coach raises his arm and takes off, we charge the field. The roar of the crowd is unbelievable! What a rush, like a bolt of electricity. Believe me, it’s a feeling I will never forget.
How many fans did Beaver Stadium hold then?
It was close to 50,000 in 1968. Beaver Stadium holds over 100,000 now. Over the years they kept expanding it.
Were your parents in the stands for your first game?
Of course. They never missed a home game, neither did my two older sisters, who were Penn State students at the time. My whole family knew how hard I’d worked to make the team, just like every other guy taking the field in a uniform. No one makes a college team at that level that hasn’t spent the better part of his youth pushing himself physically and mentally. Football is a brutal sport on the body and the mind. I doubt that most players haven’t thought about quitting at some point. All the guys who suited up that day had stuck it out, so they were more than eager to have their shot.
But not everybody who wears the uniform gets a shot. Did you think Paterno would put you in the game?
Well, I had spent my freshman year wondering if he would. You see, in 1967 according to NCAA regulations, freshmen were not eligible to play varsity football. That system meant that the freshman squad played against the varsity as a scout team, running the plays of the next opponent’s team. We became sacrificial lambs all week before the upcoming game. Talk about suicide drills!!!
Upperclassmen had no respect for freshmen. They would beat the freshman opposing offensive lineman with forearm shivers and otherwise illegal head slaps. Every play run in practice was live between the tackles. No tackling of the running backs and no touching the quarterback, but every other position was live, or, as the coaches called it “thud”.