Connor Taking the Lead

Penn State senior linebacker is embracing his new role as a team captain and has already had to deal with issues. Connor chimes in on Andrew Quarless and Beaver Stadium clean-up duty in this story from his Tuesday teleconference.

Two years ago, when he was busted to the foreign team for making prank phone calls to a former Penn State assistant coach, Nittany Lion linebacker Dan Connor seemed anything but captain material.

But that was then, when Connor was a 19-year-old sophomore with a bit of a wild streak on and off the field. Now a senior, Connor has rallied nicely from the misstep, earning All-America honors in 2006 and more recently being voted a Penn State tri-captain by his teammates.

In retrospect, he believes the off-field issues helped him become the squad leader he is today.

“It's a great honor and I'm proud to do it and proud to fill the tradition of a Penn State captain, the great people you can talk about in the past,” Connor said. “It has been a rollercoaster [for me] off the field, but that's what went into making me a guy people respect and would vote as a captain. They know I've been through a lot of success and failure — both sides — and guys respect that.”

As fate would have it, Connor, quarterback Anthony Morelli and receiver Terrell Golden were elected captains in mid-August, about the same time another promising sophomore found himself in Joe Paterno's dreaded doghouse.

When starting tight end Andrew Quarless was cited for underage drinking — redshirt sophomore DB Willie Harriott was also nabbed — Paterno ordered their lockers cleared. He eventually decided to leave the fate of both players up to their teammates.

Fortunately for Quarless, it was not so long ago that Connor was in a similar pinch, so the senior could empathize.

“Andrew is a young player who made a mistake and knew it,” Connor said. “He came to the captains afterward and came to the team and asked for forgiveness and whether we wanted him back. He asked for forgiveness and we rallied behind him. You can't judge him on that one thing. … The team forgave him and we're going to move on from there.”

Quarless did not escape punishment completely, though. Both he and Harriott are not on Penn State's depth chart heading into Saturday's season-opener against Florida International at Beaver Stadium.

The Quarless situation was the most pressing issue confronting the new captains, but hardly the most serious. On April 1, a group of Penn State football players was allegedly involved in a fight in a downtown State College apartment. Though most of the charges against the players have been dropped, safety Anthony Scirrotto and defensive tackle Chris Baker are still working their way through the legal system.

Because he was disappointed that his team would be mixed up in such trouble, Paterno handed down program-wide punishment. The most talked-about penance is that the entire team will help clean Beaver Stadium on the Sundays following home football games.

Connor said he has yet to be alerted to the particulars of the clean-up work. But he and his crew are ready to have at it.

“Speaking as a captain, this doesn't affect me much at all,” he said. “It's part of the job. If Coach Paterno says do it, you go and do it.”

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