STATE COLLEGE ‚?? Frustration was only natural. Since November, Penn State players have had to watch their school and their football program take fire from across the country. From around the world.
But for the most part, they understood that part of it. The backlash from the Jerry Sandusky scandal and the general scorn that accompanied all things Penn State. A fire that was rekindled in July with the release of the Freeh report and the NCAA imposing severe sanctions on the team.
What has been tougher for them to accept, however, is the teammates who have left because of it all.
‚??Right then and there you had to make a decision,‚?Ě quarterback Matt McGloin said of July 23, the day the NCAA hammer came down. ‚??You were either going to stick it out, or you were going to bail and be selfish.‚?Ě
Ten players have left the team since that date. They‚??ve had their reasons. Some were unhappy even before hell broke loose in November. Some had family issues.
Others, like tailback Silas Redd, didn‚??t sugarcoat things. They wanted to play for championships. With the Nittany Lions getting hit with a postseason ban and scholarship reductions, that was impossible to do at Penn State.
Redd called his transfer to USC ‚??a business decision‚?Ě after his first practice with the Trojans.
And that‚??s the sort of thing that isn‚??t sitting right with some Penn State players, who spoke out on Thursday at the team‚??s media day, some for the first time since that morning of July 23.
Some went with diplomatic answers.
‚??Everyone has to do what‚??s best for him and his family,‚?Ě junior guard John Urschel said. ‚??Everyone has to make their own decision.‚?Ě
Senior cornerback Stephon Morris started out on that route, too.
‚??I wish them the best,‚?Ě he said.
Then a pause.
‚??I‚??m going to say what I‚??m going to say,‚?Ě he continued. ‚??I mean, come on. That‚??s like me saying, ‚??Oh, I‚??m transferring to Michigan.‚?? How would you feel? How would they feel?
‚??Naw. ‚?Ľ That‚??s a coward move to me. So I really don‚??t care.‚?Ě
Redd and top receiver Justin Brown (Oklahoma) were the two most significant defections along with kicker Anthony Fera (Texas).
‚??For the most part, a lot of us stayed here,‚?Ě McGloin said. ‚??Stayed true to the program. Thought about the team. Thought about what the coaches have done. Thought about the fans.
‚??And it couldn‚??t be better right now, the position that we‚??re in. We have a chance to do something great for this university and bring this university back to the top.‚?Ě
Coach Bill O‚??Brien has been diplomatic about the players who have left, saying that he does not agree with their decisions but still respects them.
O‚??Brien cautioned that the Lions can‚??t get too caught up in an us-against-the-world mentality, particularly off the field.
‚??I think we have to be very, very mindful of that,‚?Ě O‚??Brien said. ‚??In the competitive arena, when we go out and play games, I can see where that may come into play a little bit. ‚?Ľ You have to play the sport of football with somewhat of a chip on your shoulder. But at the end of the day, these kids understand why we‚??re in this position.
‚??Instead of saying it‚??s us against them, let‚??s go out and play good football and think about the fact that maybe this is a little bit about more than football. That this is about helping a community. This is about bringing more awareness ‚?? much more awareness ‚?? to child abuse. This is about making sure that we ‚?Ľ be a part of leading this university through the next three or four years.
‚??That will be a challenge, but that‚??s what life is about.‚?Ě
With their starting RB gone to Southern Cal, the Lions needed a new go-to guy. They found one in Bill Belton. 1B