Harvey Levine/FOS

Restoring Order To Penn State's LB Corps

Criminology major Koa Farmer has made the move from safety to the Nittany Lions' injury-plagued linebacker unit.

Koa Farmer has been a good soldier during his time at Penn State.

He also played the part of the good cop this summer.

A criminology major, he shadowed those working at federal agencies like the FBI, DEA and ATF in Washington, D.C. He also rode along with the Metro Police Department during drug busts, something that affected him profoundly.

“It’s really like a movie,” he said.

He would watch from a police cruiser as a sergeant would bark out orders to move in, then be surprised as officers came from all directions.

“They’re getting out of the car, running down the street,” he said during a conference call with reporters earlier this week. “I’m like, ‘Can I get out of the car, too?’ It was crazy, man.”

So too are his present circumstances. The redshirt sophomore moved last week from safety to outside linebacker, after an injury blitz left the Lions short-handed at all three ‘backer spots.

Farmer said he has been shuttling back and forth between the two positions for “at least a year.” Heading into Saturday’s game against Minnesota he finds himself the second-stringer on the strong side, behind Manny Bowen.

“Safety has some linebacker aspects,” Farmer said, “and linebacker has some safety aspects, so it’s not a hard transition at all. It’s fun, really. I don’t have a problem with it. Anything that helps the team out, I’ll do whatever it takes.”

The 6-foot-1, 225-pound Farmer was used most often as a kickoff returner last season, averaging 22.5 yards on 18 runbacks, with a long of 57. He has not seen work in that capacity this season — instead he is serving as a blocker on the kick-return unit — but has two tackles and two assists in four games on defense to date.

That he has managed to stay upright is no small feat, given all that has befallen the linebacker corps. All three of the Lions’ opening-week ‘backers are hurt, and one of them, Nyeem Wartman-White, is out for the season with a knee injury. That leaves PSU with three backups in regular roles. According to this week’s depth chart, freshman Cam Brown will make his first collegiate start on the weak side against the Gophers, joining Bowen and Brandon Smith.

“I haven’t been on a team with so many injuries,” Farmer said, “but at this point it’s just the next-man-up mentality – getting guys in the game, getting experience for everyone who can be ready.”

“I haven’t been on a team with so many injuries, but at this point it’s just the next-man-up mentality – getting guys in the game, getting experience for everyone who can be ready.”

Just to be safe, he always wears a Hawaiian lei under his jersey.

“I actually have it tattooed on me as well,” he said. “It’s kind of like my good-luck thing. It keeps all the bad spirits away from me.”

His parents, Jamal and Shirley, met while students at the University of Hawaii. Jamal played running back there, and later at Cal State-Northridge. As Koa (full name: Joshua-Kekoa) was growing up in the Los Angeles suburb of Sherman Oaks, his dad helped him along, coaching him through junior high and passing out pointers afterward.

Even today, Koa said, Jamal is “always critiquing me, always coaching me up, watching me every game, even though he can’t come to them.”

The younger Farmer had to learn about some things on his own, not least of which was the weather in the Northeast after he chose Penn State over Utah, Cal and Washington.

“I’ve never seen snow before, until I came here,” he said.

Even on those days when it didn’t snow he would bundle up to walk to class. He would do so at practice, despite the fact that no one else did. His teammates got a big kick out of that.

“It was a pretty hard transition (to the weather),” he said. “I think I’m used to it now. We’ll see, coming up.”

Just as everyone will see what he has to offer. Once again he is along for the ride, waiting to see what happens.

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