Seniors Eye Memorable Home Finale

Penn State veterans (and roommates) Glenn Carson and Ty Howle would like to add one more Beaver Stadium victory their class's list of accomplishments.

The memories that will persist, long after Penn State's Senior Day, will involve the games and the guys -- probably the latter, more than the former.

Glenn Carson and Ty Howle both said that, as they looked ahead to the ceremonies that will precede the Nittany Lions' final home game, Saturday against Nebraska. Roommates for three years now (along with another senior, offensive tackle Adam Gress), Carson and Howle -- the team's starting middle linebacker and center, respectively -- will be among 17 players honored.

Each of them will file out of Beaver Stadium's south tunnel, a suitable metaphor for this rite of passage. Reserves will receive polite applause. Starters, a warm ovation. Stars, thunderous cheers.

And they will be left to sort out their emotions. Howle is quite sure it will be a “bittersweet” day. Carson understands that whatever he feels at that moment, he will have to quickly store it away, given the difficulty of the game to follow.

“That's a crucial part,” he said. “We can't let our emotions get the best of us, especially with this team. … We just have to stay focused on the task.”

They should be used to doing that by now, given the gauntlet they have run these last two years. They are the second senior class to emerge in the wake of the Sandusky mess, and would like to believe they are better for it.

“We have a saying: 'Charlie Mike' -- continue the mission,” Carson said, “and that's what we've done here so far.”

Carson is a New Jerseyan, Howle a North Carolina native. Carson is a three-year starter, while this is the first season Howle has been a regular. Carson will likely get NFL looks, in the estimation of coach Bill O'Brien. Howle, son of a high school coach, would like to get into that profession.

O'Brien said the class as a whole is cohesive and hard-working, that in time it will be lumped in with last year's seniors and become “an important part of Penn State football history.”

“To me,” he said, “they set the tone every week. They showed our younger guys how to practice and came back with intensity, whether it was following a win or a loss. Again, they stuck with this university, they stuck with this program and they didn't have to after the sanctions came out. I think that says it all about this class.”

As Carson said, “There's a word that's been thrown around the whole time with this team, and that's 'resiliency.' We just have a bunch of guys, we never quit, we never give up. We've gone through a lot of ups and downs -- not only this season but in our football careers. I think that that word is what's going to be remembered from this class.”

Neither he nor Howle could have known what was in store for them when they committed to PSU. Carson said he made an instant connection to the players he met during his recruiting visits. Howle said he had heard the late Joe Paterno speak at clinics in his native state, and was well aware of the school's tradition.

“I came here to win,” he said. “That's one of the reasons I came to Penn State, because at Penn State you're going to win.”

It was nonetheless a “culture shock” for Howle when he graduated from high school in December 2008 and arrived in Happy Valley the following month. He swears, perhaps seriously, that it snowed each day the first two weeks he was on campus.

But Howle, known for his quick wit, fit in quickly. And somewhere along the way he and Carson were drawn to one another, and both of them to Gress.

“They're just two goofy guys -- two stereotypical offensive line guys that just like to hang and have fun,” Carson said. “They're pretty easygoing guys.”

The years have flown by. The program's travails have been well-documented. And on Saturday there is one last home game, one victory all of them would very much like to get. With only a tough finale at Wisconsin to follow, it would ensure the Lions, now 6-4, a winning season -- no small accomplishment, given Sandusky and the sanctions and everything else.

“But,” O'Brien said, “I think the goal on Saturday is it's not about clinching a winning season, it's about going out there and doing everything we can against a really, really tough, good, Nebraska team to help our seniors go out winners. That's the big deal to me.”

Down the road, that will matter very much to those seniors, as did like last year's Senior Day victory, in overtime over Wisconsin. But right alongside that will be the relationships they forged.

“It's just a great group of guys that love playing the game,” Carson said. “Every time you step out on the field with them, it's just an awesome experience.”

There have been other moments that have been just as meaningful, just as memorable.

“I talked to a bunch of our seniors and our coaches,” Howle said, “and all them have told us, 'What you're going to miss the most is being here at the football building and being around your teammates, and that camaraderie.' You walk into that locker room, and someone's always there. There's a buddy always there to talk to and hang out with. That's what we've always been told, and what I think will be the most missed, later on. And the most talked about.”


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