Familial ties have long been common in the Penn State football program. Dozens of father-son pairs played for Paterno over his 46-year career, and even a few brother combinations decided to bring sibling rivalries to Paterno’s program along the way.
All-American linebacker Andre Collins and his four brothers — Gerry, Phillip, Jason, and Aaron — all played football for Penn State at one time or another. Former assistant coach Tom Bradley and his brother Matt both played under Paterno. More recent history has seen duos like Michael and Patrick Mauti or Kyle and Tyler Lucas take the field for the Nittany Lions.
This week, the Bill O’Brien era found its first pair of brothers.
Redshirt freshman Jared Fagnano, a 5’10” wide receiver from Akron, announced that he will be transferring to Penn State to join his brother Jake, a redshirt senior listed as the starting strong safety, in the first year of the O’Brien era.
“I’ve always wanted to play football with Jake,” Jared said. “I never got the chance to play with him because he graduated before I made the varsity team [in high school]. This will be a great experience because I’ll finally be able to go up against him and see for myself everything that he does.”
The brothers grew up an hour away in Williamsport, Pennsylvania as part of a highly athletic family. Their father, Phil Fagnano, pitched for two years in the Phillies organization, and Jared and Jake excelled at baseball and football in high school. Both lifelong Penn State fans, it’s the perfect match as Jake enters his final year of eligibility.
“You can’t ask for much more than this as far as football brothers go,” Jake said. “We’re both real competitive, especially with each other — we want to make each other better and see each other do as well as possible.”
“It’s gonna be sweet to finally watch Jake on the field instead of hearing it over the phone from Akron,” Jared said. Although preseason camp started last week, Jared won’t report to State College for a few more days to schedule classes and meet with the coaches. Due to NCAA transfer rules, he’ll have to sit out a year before using his three remaining years of eligibility.
But who’s the most athletic in the family?
“I can’t compare myself to someone like Jake considering all the hard work he’s put in to get to this point — you know, walking on four years ago and not getting reps but still sticking with it,” Jared said. “Then the new coaches came in and decided right away that he was their guy — that takes some real guts and love of the game to stay in it that long and come out on top for his last year…I have some big shoes to fill.”
If anything’s for certain, Jared isn’t taking this situation for granted. When the NCAA sanctions were issued, a few walk-on spots opened up as players left the program, and Jared jumped on the opportunity to join his brother at a school he’s loved for most of his life.
“I’m proud I got this chance,” Jared said. “And I’m proud to be his brother.”