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Meet Cole Rhinehart, The Little Nittany Lion

Meet 8-year old Cole Rhinehart, who loves Penn State so much that his teachers in school have started to refer to him as Cole Penn State Rhinehart. Every week he brings in a different Penn State artifact for show-and-tell and is able to talk all about his favorite players, Christian Hackenberg and Adam Breneman. He’s been to the games of almost every Penn State sporting event, favoring basketball, volleyball, hockey, and, of course, football.

But you probably better know Cole as the little Nittany Lion during a skit during the Penn State Akron football game on Saturday.

After going to his first game at around six months of age, Cole quickly became addicted to the Penn State culture, much like the rest of us. He and his 5-year old sister, Kara, would go to games dressed for the occasion with Cole in a Nittany Lion suit and Kara in a cheerleader uniform. His constant record of being at Penn State sporting events eventually got him noticed by the actual Nittany Lion himself, who sent an autographed poster to the family. Penn Staters fell in love with the boy in the almost-perfect Nittany Lion outfit. Cole’s grandparents were able to supply him with the right tail, shoes, gloves, and of course the all-important scarf. And while he admitted that the outfit can become super hot and sweaty, he wouldn’t trade it for the world.

This year Cole was asked to partake in a skit during the break between the first and second quarter of the first home football game by the Cheer Association and the Nittany Lion himself. His performance was a “Mission Impossible “skit inspired by Mike the Mailman with a package being kidnapped by Akron fans. After the day was saved, Cole popped out of a box with a giant sign reading “This is my dream job” signed by James Franklin. When asked if he was nervous, Cole admitted he was, especially after being placed in the box and knowing when he came out he would be faced with almost 100,000 people watching him. But he was able to relax due to the help from the Lion and the cheerleaders. By the time he saw the good luck message for him inside the box from the Penn State community, he was ready to go. Like he had told his grandfather just that morning, “This is my big day!”

After the skit, he was taken back through the tunnel where he was met by former Penn State running back Blair Thomas. His father, Greg, said that it was a truly special moment for himself because Thomas had been one of his favorite players to come out of Penn State and there he was asking his son for a picture. Thomas ended up being just one of the many people who stopped and congratulated Cole, asking for pictures as the family made its way back to their seats. Of course, he also got to catch up with coach James Franklin.

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Right now, even though he is just a second grader, Cole is already planning his path to Penn State. Even Coach Franklin is watching out for him, especially after their first meeting during Franklin’s first radio show. Cole happened to mention that he was eight, and Franklin was quick to respond, “Stay away from my two daughters!” But right now, Cole will continue practicing his one-armed pushups (he’s already up to 51), Lion celebration moves and going to school. He would like to wish the team good luck and give a shout-out of thanks to the Nittany Lion, the mascot we all call a friend.

About the Author

Brandilyn Heckman

is a junior majoring in Secondary Education (English). Though she commutes to class from her home in Penns Valley, she refuses to be called a 'townie.' Along with Onward State, she currently interns with the Centre Daily Times. In her spare time, she is unafraid to show her love for Penn State, Landon Donovan, and Captain America. You can follow her on twitter at @Brandilynh or contact her via email with [email protected]

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