Ask Penn State sophomore middle linebacker Jason Cabinda about the Nittany Lions’ departing seniors, and one of the first names he mentions is that of fellow ’backer Ben Kline.
Doesn’t mean he hasn’t had an impact, Cabinda said.
Rewind to preseason camp last season. Cabinda was new to the program, and recalled Tuesday “how nervous I was.”
So he turned to Kline, his roommate during camp.
“Just wanted to play well,” Cabinda said. “Ben just always calmed me down.”
And not only that, but Kline would review practice video every day with Cabinda, get him up to speed with every wrinkle that was installed.
“That’s huge,” Cabinda said.
Not to mention typical of this class, in his eyes.
“Those guys are really selfless guys,” he said, “and I think that’s really the one word I would use to describe those seniors — selfless.”
Of the 19 who will be honored before Saturday’s home finale against Michigan, Cabinda also mentioned injured safety Jordan Lucas and wide receiver Matt Zanellato as players who have given freely of themselves. But he holds the entire group in high regard.
They were the ones who weathered the Sandusky scandal and resultant NCAA sanctions, the firing and death of Joe Paterno, the transition in head coaches to first Bill O’Brien and more recently James Franklin.
“We all know what these seniors have done for us, for this community, for the university and really what they did for the football program by staying and keeping us alive there,” Cabinda said.
It is not something the underclassmen discuss often, he added. It is just understood, and appreciated. Which is why there is sizable motivation to win this weekend.
It is far from the only incentive. The opportunity to knock off a ranked team like the No. 13/14 Wolverines (8-2) offers plenty by itself. The Lions (7-3), who will be playing before a White Out, are also looking to finish unbeaten at home for the first time since 2008.
“It’s hard not to get extra pumped or have extra juice on game day when you have 107,000 fans screaming and the game’s sold out,” Cabinda said. “I think it definitely helps. It makes Senior Day.”
But the biggest motive involves those who will be making their final home appearance.
“Playing for the seniors, you want to make sure you get a W,” Cabinda said. “All those (other) things definitely do add up. It’s hard to say that they don’t. They definitely do add up, and bring extra juice to the team.”
The seniors, Cabinda said, have shared their stories every Friday night the last two years, on the eve of each game; the Lions call such things “shares.”
And Cabinda said, “A lot of them can tend to get personal. Some guys kind of went through the same stuff. There’s stuff you connect with, from guys’ childhoods. Absolutely, I think it’s very, very important, because I don’t think we get to know guys in that aspect enough, so I think those shares are huge in terms of letting the team bond and guys getting to know each other and how guys grew up.”
They know the seniors real well by now. And would like nothing more than to show their appreciation Saturday.