Because I was granted access so late in the summer, it took me a while to receive my parking passes. In week one I was able to track down Jeff who gave me a pass out of his Batman utility belt so that I could get parked. I wasn’t looking forward to tracking him down in week 2, so Drew said that I could pick him up before the game and use his pass. That morning, I had taken my laptop out of my bag before leaving home to put the final touches on a game preview. I never put the computer back in the bag. I also forgot my phone charger. In a 6 hour span, Drew let me use his parking pass, phone charger and laptop to write a post-game recap. Thank goodness my seat was next to Drew and not Ron Musselman! Thanks for everything, Drew.
Media passes are granted with permission to get on the field for the last five minutes of the game. I suppose that’s for post-game interviews and such. For me, it was about being on the field for Penn State football games. I’ll never forget walking out of the tunnel into the middle of the student section for the first time. Penn State was losing to the Bobcats in a game that was all but over. However, when you step out onto the grass, the students were deafening. There’s no way that any student section is better than the one at Penn State. That is a group who goes all-out for 60 minutes and really fuels the team. I was in that end zone when McGloin scored the go-ahead touchdown against Northwestern. I was there when Ficken hit the overtime field goal against Wisconsin. You can’t hear anything. I once said to myself “this is crazy” and could not hear the words coming from my own mouth. Standing on the field, looking up at the crowd was humbling every time I did it and it reminded me of how lucky I was.
I managed to make it through every week without doing anything too embarrassing. I got comfortable enough in the media room to ask questions of several players and coaches. Speaking of, Ted Roof is a really cool guy. I love defense and having the chance to ask a guy like that little questions about scheme for my own interest was another awesome perk. He never walked away until every member of the media had asked every question they had. I would head over to him once the initial crowd thinned out to have a little talk with him. To the fans who aren’t in love with Roof, that guy has forgot more about defense than you and I combined will ever know. Other notes from the media room: Zwinak doesn’t look like a guy who punishes defenses. Carson is a former state champion wrestler. The first time I saw him, I knew it was him because he LOOKS like a wrestler. Hodges is a big dude. Obeng-Agyapong may have the biggest shoulders on the team. Zordich is a great kid to talk to. Allen Robsinson is every bit as big as advertised. The tight ends on the team are as big as advertised. I’m 6’4″ish and I look up at Gilliam, Lehman and James. I didn’t get a chance to see Carter up close. Speaking of height, McGloin is not 6’1″. John Urschel is the smartest man in the room. He knows it. Ben Jones and Sean Fitz are both taller than you probably think. David Jones is exactly what you’d expect. Corey Giger’s accent is not as evident in person as it is on the radio.
To my man Phil Grosz: Calm down. Phil’s assigned seat was in front of Kevin, just to the left of the visiting media. It took me three weeks to realize where Phil was supposed to be sitting because he spent 90% of the season standing behind us, commenting on every play of the game. He disagrees with every call from the refs, most play calls from Bill O’Brien and just about every decision from Matt McGloin that leads to an incomplete pass. During boring games, Phil was my entertainment. He was just loud enough that the visiting media in front of me would take notice by mid-2nd quarter and start mumbling responses back at him. This became an every-week event that I found myself looking forward to. It was capped off during the Wisconsin game when one gentleman from Madison all but stood up and told Phil to shut up. Nothing like some added tension during that game. And since you’re wondering, Phil’s hair is just as awesome in person. Thanks, Phil.
Lastly, I owe a huge thanks to my wife. Fall Saturdays at the Tolley house are generally lazy days, filled with pizza, chip dip and multiple TVs broadcasting college football games. Without flinching, she traded in most of those lazy days this fall for the duties of caring for our two kids while I was off playing sportswriter in central Pennsylvania. I don’t think new pots and pans are going to cut it this Christmas.
For all of the latest on the Penn State Nittany Lions, follow VBR Lead Editor Tim Tolley on Twitter.