They came from all over the state and even all over the country.
I talked to people from Altoona, Johnstown, Pittsburgh, Philly, Bellefonte, Philipsburg, and Harrisburg. One guy and his son drove up from Kentucky.
There were hoards of students who walked over from their dorm rooms in East and West or North Halls or from their apartments downtown. There were players from other Penn State teams, wearing their colors, their team jackets, and their numbers.
Of course there was also the fleet of media vans and trucks, with the reporters and camera men rushing around trying to get the best images or statements.
The occasion was a 6 a.m. rally, thought up at the last minute by a local radio host, designed to show support for the players and coaches on this Penn State football team. The idea was to meet at the entrance to the Lasch Football Complex and greet the players as they arrived for their Tuesday workout.
I expected to see a couple hundred people, but instead there were at least a thousand, maybe two, all chanting and cheering as if this was a pep rally and Ohio State was coming in tomorrow.
And when the band showed up, playing all the football favorites, all of this officially turned into “An Event.” Sort of like midnight madness with doughnuts and coffee instead of whatever they eat and drink before midnight.
Everyone I talked to, though, no matter what their exact words were, all had the same thoughts as to what this rally was really all about: we are here to show our support and enthusiasm for the players on this football team. We are like a family, and at times like this, families pull together.
At about 6:15 the first of the players began to show up. All of them were greeted with cheers, shouts of encouragement, signs, and high-fives. Some of the players were followed by newsmen with microphones and cameras. Some walked in alone, some in small groups. Some smiled and waved and signed autographs. Others stared ahead intently, maybe already focusing on the job at hand and the season to come. Still others seemed to be taken aback by the size of the crowd and didn’t quite know how to react.
It didn’t matter. The all received the same loud and raucous welcome, the same chants of “We are number one” and “We are Penn State.”
By 6:45 all of the players had pretty much arrived, and with the band still playing and the radio people still broadcasting, people began to drift away, while some of the fans that stayed longer were allowed in to watch some of the workouts.
One couple, all dressed in blue and white, passed by me on the way out. I said hello, and the guy looked at me and said, “That was pretty amazing, wasn’t it?” Yes it was.
On the way to my car, I walked around the site where they are building the new hockey complex. It is a giant mess now, holes everywhere and everything scattered all around in big piles. But soon they are going to start building, and that giant mess will slowly become one of the finest college hockey facilities in the country.
There is a different kind of construction that will be going on in the Lasch Building, and they are going to try to build something that will be just as impressive as that hockey building. Maybe that work started today.