The Breakup of Silas Redd and Penn State

It was a bad break-up — one of those where everything seemed fine and then suddenly it’s not. It’s the the clichéd “It’s not you, it’s me,” sent in a text message. It leaves us — fans, players, and coaches alike — in shock as if we did something wrong. No matter what the other party says, we will feel like we are at fault.

We will cope in various ways, whether it’s criticism (“If he’s switching schools, he’s not showing loyalty and doesn’t deserve to be here in the first place”), pride (“He went to Penn State first, we molded him”), or pseudo-joy for the other party (“While it sucks, Tailback U is a perfect fit for him”). One thing is certain, though — PA announcer Dean DeVore will no longer utter the words “Silas Redd the ball carrier” inside Beaver Stadium.

It was love at first sight. Silas started out as a five-star recruit coming from the King & Low-Heywood Thomas school in Stamford Connecticut. The 5′ 10″ RB was ranked 7th in his position for the 2010 class according to Scout.com, and only heavily recruited by UConn, UVA, and Rutgers before ultimately making his decision to come to Penn State.

Needless to say he was a perfect fit. Redd says he dreamed of playing for Penn State since he was 8 years old. He showed the qualities of all the great Penn State running backs in recent history. He had the strength of Ki-Jana Carter, the speed of Larry Johnson, the elusiveness of Aaron Harris, and the vision of Tony Hunt. With Evan Royster entering his final year, and Stephon Green slowly fading out of his once prominent spotlight, it was an obvious choice for Redd.

The relationship really started during his freshman year, when Redd became the back-up for the statically-impressive Royster. Redd had 437 yards on 77 carries (5.7 avg) and 2 TDs. For a back-up that was in the shadow most of the year, that’s pretty damn good.

But his game was much more than statistics, it was an art. His explosiveness and vision, mixed with his overall athleticism, was something that has not been seen in a Penn State running back since Curt Warner. He had a certain raw talent that had separated him from all the aforementioned backs. Everyone noticed it, even Michigan fans (that somehow got seats behind me in the student section in 2010) were asking “Why isn’t Silas Redd starting?” Quite frankly, it was because he was young, behind a senior starter, and he was still a little clumsy. The following year, that all changed.

In 2011, Redd became the starting running back. He was the cornerstone of the offense and his talents matured. Redd rushed for 1,241 yards on 244 carries (5.1 avg) scoring 7 TDs and had six 100-yard rushing games (five of them consecutive), earning him a spot on the All-Big Ten Second Team.

Even though the 2011 season was plagued with turmoil (both on and off the field, including a public urination citation for Redd), he showed promise for a team that was still on the rise. He excelled in the areas where Evan Royster and Stephon Green could not, and was even put on several pre-season award watch lists for the 2012 season including the Maxwell Award for best football player.

Silas Redd was clearly a major part of the Penn State system, and had an exciting junior year to look forward to. But then, as we all know, it happened. Surprising to almost everyone, Redd’s name was thrown around as a potential transfer almost immediately, and rumors ran rampant about flirting with USC.

After an appointment with USC head coach Lane Kiffin at his home in Connecticut, a visit to South LA, and meetings with other athletes who attend USC, he ultimately made the decision to transfer.

It was a devastating blow to the Penn State community. It’s hard to lose one of the faces of our beloved program, and those who follow have a large set of shoes to fill. There are rough patches in every relationship, however, some become permanent.

This brings us back to the breakup aspect. Breakups put everything into perspective for those directly involved, as well as those third parties who are very close. Silas was one of the faces of Penn State football, and while football is a team sport and can crumble if any part breaks (like a bridge) he is almost like the keystone of the team.

While many may disagree, his decision potentially has the biggest impact on those who are teetering towards transfer. Because of Redd’s prominence in the program, it can open up doors for other major Penn State players to pack their bags and find a new school (as seven already have). It’s a sad thing and is a huge blow for the Penn State football program.

However, there is a positive that is always overlooked in break-ups: they allow for growth. The best thing fans (and especially players) can take from this situation is that it really has nothing to do with us. We did nothing wrong, and it is their choice to leave. It also allows those players who stay to prove to the world that those who left were wrong.

Those who stay true to Penn State in her darkest hour may not win a national or Big Ten title, but I know for certain that they will be idolized in a different way than Todd Blackledge, Franco Harris, Curt Warner, Shane Conlan, or Michael Robinson. They will not be playing for championships, they will be playing for pride, one of – if not the most – important ideals we as Penn Staters share.

We idolize our players because they represent us as an University nationally, and that team will show the nation that they just care about this University, not accolades, for the next four years. They will prove to the world that we can move on.

So Silas, we thank you. We will remember the good times, and there were certainly a lot of those. You helped us believe again in an on-and-off offensive system and made us remember how exciting Penn State running backs can be.

In any case, Redd isn’t really a Penn State Color.

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Matt Westlake

Toona '12. Main '14. Creamery for life.

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