“I’ve made that walk, from Lasch to Holuba, hundreds of times…but today was a little different.”
Those were just a few words from senior cornerback Mike Wallace, among smiles and laughs at the North Atherton Street Waffle Shop shortly after the morning’s pep rally.
“Definitely a top memory,” he said.
This morning, thousands of current students, alumni, and their families showed up to the parking lot behind the Lasch Football building to give support to the football team as they walked to their workout from their apartments. Fans drove from as far as Kentucky and California, as well as Maryland and Virginia, in order to show support for Penn State and its football team.
Set-up for the pep rally began around 5 a.m, and The Goon Show (the local radio show responsible for putting together the rally) started at 6. One might have been reminded of a Saturday in the fall with the droves of people coming around with pom-poms, signs, and face paint. There was no talk of how tired people were. Instead, it was about excitement to start cheering in the stadium again, and talking about how it wouldn’t to fun to be the first guy hit by Michael Mauti on September 1st.
The aptly named “Rise and Rally” started with the radio show thanking local sponsors and reminding everybody to stay true to the community and its businesses. Former lettermen were asked to step to the podium and each was recognized, including a member of Joe Paterno’s first-ever team here at Penn State. Also spotted in the crowd was former player and Board of Trustees member Adam Taliaferro as well as Sue Paterno.
Shortly after, the players made their way from Lasch to Holuba through lines of people and constant cheering. The Blue Band had a solid amount of members playing fight songs and the new version of “Rock and Roll.” It didn’t take much to get the crowd excited, even at such an early hour.
Practice began right at 7 a.m. and, much to everybody’s surprise, fans were allowed to sit on the sidelines, as well as take pictures and video. In anybody’s remembrance, this was the first time that the Penn State football team has had any sort of practice open to public view.
After the short work-out was over, the team invited the entirety of the crowd into their huddle for a huge, rowdy, up-beat “Family on 3!”
From then on, players went out of their way to thank everyone who came. They signed autographs, took pictures with everybody who asked them to, and shook hands with every person in sight.
Senior quarterback Shane McGregor was impressed with the early morning crowd. He said, “Last year you couldn’t come within 10 feet of that fence. This is awesome.”
There have obviously been talks of transfers and the reality of the sanctions has already sunken in to many players, and even questions of changing the uniforms have risen — but none of that was relevant this morning. The team was more focused on getting through to their fans and showing that they felt the support that was given. They were constantly tweeting pictures and videos, as well as thanking their fans. The hashtag “#RiseAndRally” even trended nationally for a short time.
Garry Gilliam, senior tight end, who tweeted “Just looked out my window and saw A LOT of fans walking to our building … Felt like seeing snow on Christmas morning!” before practice, wanted to make one thing clear: this football season isn’t just about winning. “This season…is a way to show our community that we’re still committed to them. This [rally]obviously shows that they’re still committed to us,” he said.
In all, an estimated 3,000 people came out this morning to show our team that we’ll always be there for them. Here’s our photo gallery from this morning.