Derek Dowrey is a huge human being, checking in at 6-foot-3 and nearly 330 pounds. And during a press conference at Beaver Stadium Tuesday, Penn State’s massive right guard revealed a very human side.
A fifth-year senior, Dowrey was asked about classmate Nyeem Wartman-White. Earlier in the afternoon, Nittany Lion coach James Franklin revealed that Wartman-White, a starting linebacker, had been lost for the season due to an unspecified injury sustained in the Temple game.
So this marks the third season out of five — and second in a row — that Wartman-White will miss the majority of games due to injury. This latest setback more than likely ended his football career, as even before it happened Wartman-White seemed to express little interest in petitioning the NCAA for an extra season due to medical hardship.
In the Beaver Stadium media room Tuesday, Dowrey was clearly hurting for his friend. You could tell he was holding back tears when he was asked about Wartman-White.
“I love Nyeem, ever since I met him in recruiting when I was still in high school,” Dowrey said, pausing to dab at his eyes.
“I personally can’t imagine what he’s going through,” he continued. “But I know, if there is somebody who can get through this, get past it, it’ll be him. He’s an amazing athlete, an amazing competitor; a great person, a great teammate.”
Give some thought to the first thing Dowrey said — the bit about meeting Wartman-White (who was simply Wartman then) while they were being recruited in high school — and you’ll begin to understand the depth of his emotions regarding this situation.
A two-way lineman out of Virginia, Dowrey committed to Joe Paterno’s PSU staff in June of 2011. Wartman, a linebacker out of the Pennsylvania Coal Region, committed less than a month later.
And now give some thought to what that quartet has endured together.
The Sandusky scandal exploding in November of 2011 and Paterno being fired shortly thereafter (and dying not long after that). The NCAA hammering PSU with devastating sanctions in July of 2012, which included the ability for any of them to transfer without penalty. The sanctions eventually being scaled back and then ultimately invalidated.
On the coaching side, they initially pledged to one staff (Paterno’s), but then had to sign with another (Bill O’Brien’s). They spent two years under O’Brien and then — after he left for the NFL’s Houston Texans — the past three (including this one) under Franklin.
So since they initially committed to PSU, the program has had:
• Three head coaches.
• Two interim head coaches.
• Five defensive coordinators (and two interim defensive coordinators).
• Four offensive coordinators.
And none of that takes into account the stuff normal college football players deal with — playing time concerns, position changes and … of course … injuries.
Yet all four of them made it through. All four already have their degrees.
Ideally, the four remaining links to the Joe Paterno era would have wrapped up their careers together. They would have celebrated Senior Day against Michigan State at Beaver Stadium Nov. 26 and then headed off to play in a bowl.
But those opportunities are now gone for one of them. So it was easy to understand why another got emotional while discussing the matter Tuesday.
Derek Dowrey’s only human.
“I wish him the best,” he said of his old friend Wartman-White. “But I know he doesn’t need that. He’s gonna go get it done.”