EDITORS NOTE: The next issue of Fight On State The Magazine, which prints in a week or so, is our annual Young Lions edition. In it, we focus on many of the first- and second-year players expected to make an impact at Penn State this fall. By way of a preview, here is a sidebar to our Akeel Lynch feature, in which the redshirt freshman running back discusses the staying power of his class.
HEADLINE: Staying Power
SUBHEAD: With a free pass to leave what appeared to be a sinking ship, why did so many true freshmen stick with Penn State in the summer of 2012?
BYLINE: Mark Brennan
When Penn State was hit with NCAA sanctions in late July of 2012, all sorts of rumors began to swirl about which Nittany Lions might bail on the program. One penalty was the ability for the players to transfer to other major-college programs and be eligible to play immediately.
Things looked bleak for first-year head coach Bill O'Brien and his staff.
Many of the rumors involved the freshmen who arrived on campus less than a month earlier. While some of the rookies took a bit of time to consider their options just as many of the upper classmen did in the end the only frosh to bolt before the season was defensive tackle Jamil Pollard (Rutgers).
At the time, some of the speculation involved running back Akeel Lynch allegedly being set to leave for Iowa. In early August of 2012, however, Lynch ended all of that by tweeting that he would be wearing #22 in Blue&White come Sept. 1.
Lynch said the members of his class pretty much all felt the same way.
We understood (the possibility of sanctions) when we committed, he said. For most of us, Penn State is bigger than football. You can get a good degree. Also, the atmosphere here is absolutely amazing. It's a college town.
We knew what was here, he added. We have a great leader. We have a great support staff. We have a great school. And we have great fans. So why would you ever want to leave?
The window for transferring without penalty remained open until Aug. 5 of this year the start of training camp for 2013. As that date approached, the class remained largely intact.
The only losses were quarterback Steven Bench, who transferred to South Florida after learning he'd be third on the depth chart in training camp, and offensive lineman Anthony Stanko, who gave up the sport. The sanctions did not appear to have a direct impact in either situation, other than that they allowed Stanko to remain on scholarship despite quitting the team.
Receiver Eugene Lewis did not believe any of his classmates even thought about leaving as the early-August deadline approached.
It is what it is now, Lewis said. My class is a really good class. I love everybody. We have a really good relationship. We just knew if we all stayed together as a family, the sky would be the limit.
Added Lynch: We understand that we can't control the sanctions. So we'll leave that to Coach O'Brien. We're just glad we can play football in Beaver Stadium in front of 100,000 fans.
As crazy as things were at Penn State in late July and early August of 2012, Lynch said a simple train of thought allowed he and his classmates to cut through it all.
When it came down to making a decision, we knew that, hey, the sanctions, we can't (do anything about) them, Lynch said. But we have something right here and it's great.
So we stayed.
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