Akeel Lynch’s “Dreams Come True” After Playing in Blue-White Game
After redshirting his freshman season, running back Akeel Lynch couldn’t be more excited to be playing in front of a crowd at Beaver Stadium, even though it was just the Blue-White game.
In addition to pleasing himself, he also impressed the crowd, recording 13 carries for 85 yards and a touchdown.
Lynch left his hometown of Toronto, Canada, in his junior year of high school, to play American football at St. Francis High School, a prep school in New York. The school was only two hours away from home, and they were accepting international students. When he left for the school, his mom said, “‘Hey, wouldn’t it be kind of funny if you actually played at Penn State?’ We both kind of chuckled.”
The opportunity for that joke to become a reality came after Lynch worked his way up to be the starting running back at St. Francis and had a successful senior year.
While the Blue-White game doesn’t have a regular game day atmosphere for most players, Lynch said, “It was just a dream come true … being 8-years old getting a Penn State jacket, to be able to play at Penn State, actually getting stains on my jersey. It’s real cool.”
His mom knew that Penn State was a good football school when she bought him the jacket, but that’s not commonplace back in Canada.
“People ask me ‘What school do you play for?’ ‘I play for Penn State,'” said Lynch. “And they’re like, ‘What state is that in?’”
Lynch’s longest play of the game was a 29 yard run early in the third quarter, bringing the offense across the 50- yard line to the defense’ 27- yard line, which would set the offense up for a touchdown a few plays later.
While Lynch was disappointed at first about being redshirted for the 2012 campaign, he knew that there were better things to come. He bought into the big picture and knew that a year of studying the plays and getting stronger would only help in the years to come. Lynch added some weight over the past year — he came in at 205 and says he now weighs 215, while he still maintains his 4.4 40-time.
“Akeel’s a really powerful guy; he’s quick, he’s good on the run and in the pass game. He’s going to be a solid asset for us,” said guard Miles Dieffenbach.
Lynch hasn’t just sat on the sidelines either. He played on the scout team last fall and relished every opportunity to make a big play. Lynch also revealed that Bill O’Brien calls him “Big Maple,” joking about his Canadian heritage.
“I thought he ran hard. Great kid and very happy to have him on the team,” O’Brien said.
Lynch’s jersey number is 22, although he had no idea when he was given that number the importance of it in the history of Nittany Lion running backs. Penn State’s only Heisman winner, John Cappelletti, wore the jersey back in the 1970s, and all-time leading rusher Evan Royster also wore it from 2007-2010.
“I did my research and I was like, ‘Wow, that’s actually a big number at Penn State,'” said Lynch.
With four seasons ahead of him, Lynch could easily add to that history, a lot of people have told him he has the opportunity to become “one of the best.”
Bobby Chen also contributed to this article.