John Cappelletti is probably the best player to ever set foot on the Beaver Stadium field. He’s the only Nittany Lion that has won the Heisman Trophy. He was the best player on an undefeated 12-0 team in 1973, a team that should’ve had a shot at the national championship that season.
It’s fitting that Cappelletti would also be the first Penn State football player to have his number retired. The team had a ceremony honoring the 1973 team during Saturday’s game against Eastern Michigan. During the ceremony, it was announced that Cappelletti’s iconic #22 would be retired.
“John Cappelletti just spoke to our team in the locker room and it was pretty neat,” Bill O’Brien said. “I got a chance to meet him and it’s just a great experience to be able to meet the only Heisman trophy winner in the history of Penn State. I’m very supportive of [his number being retired.]I think it sets a high bar. I think you have to win a Heisman to get your number retired at Penn State.”
It’s interesting to note that Akeel Lynch, a redshirt freshman running back, currently wears #22. Lynch had a great game Saturday, running for 108 yards and one touchdown, but he said after the game that a potential number change was in the back of his head following the halftime ceremony.
“Cappelletti told me that I’m able to keep it,” Lynch said. “I was pretty pumped. That’s really big and every time I wear that jersey I always remember the guys that wore it before me and now I realize that I’m the last guy to wear it, so I have to make sure I leave my imprint on that number. [Cappelletti] told me, ‘Carry 22 for the rest of your career. And make sure you give it back when you’re done.'”
Cappelletti rushed for 1,522 yards and 17 touchdowns in his Heisman-winning season, at one point rattling off three straight 200-yard performances. He is truly a Penn State football icon and is more than deserving of the honor he received on Saturday afternoon.