Penn State Takes on the Big Apple Leading up to the Pinstripe Bowl
Frank Sinatra once sang, “These little town blues, oh they’re melting away. I’m gonna make a brand new start of it, in old New York.”
Now, this is not to argue that State College is typically melancholy, but more along the line that New York is a step up towards a more energetic sports, work, and social life. New York City has earned itself the title as “the city that never sleeps” because of its constantly active lifestyle that blows State College’s out of the water. Luckily for our boys in Blue, they got to experience that upgrade in full effect.
The team arrived in New York City late Monday after departing from Happy Valley in the afternoon, and has been practicing at Fordham University throughout the week. In between practices, the players have been able to stretch their legs and venture into the city as it glistens with stunning lights and epic holiday cheer.
The team’s itinerary didn’t include your typical touristy destinations such as the Statue of Liberty, Central Park, or the Empire State Building, but it still wasn’t stopped from experiencing other destinations such as the Times Square or Rockefeller Center. Nonetheless, this past week has been an incredible bowl experience that the Nittany Lions have not been a part of since 2011.
Tuesday, December 23:
The day after the team arrived in New York, players paid homage to those we lost on September 11 at the recently opened National September 11 Memorial and Museum. It was a time for reflection as players, who were only in elementary school at the time, remembered that fateful morning. Among many others, coaches such as James Franklin and Herb Hand remembered former teammates who were killed during the attack.
The weather was bleak throughout the day as the team reflected on the tragedy and walked along the thousands of names inscribed on the reflecting pools where the towers once stood.
During the tour Mike Hull stated, “It’s a really unique experience to come down here and experience Ground Zero where everything happened. Words can’t describe what it’s like to be in this area after everything that happened here.”
The players were lucky enough to catch a look at the new Freedom Tower that stands at 1,776 feet tall, but the mood remained somber after an emotional tour when players and coaches returned their attention to Saturday’s game for practice later that afternoon.
Later that night, the team gathered at Little Italy’s La Nonna Ristorante Italiano for a team dinner filled with some of New York’s best tasting pasta, lasagna, and pizza. Considering the size of most of the players on the team, one can only imagine how much money was truly spent on such a dinner.
Wednesday, December 24:
On an eventful Christmas Eve, the football team visited the famed Rockefeller Center and the Top of the Rock during a foggy morning in Manhattan. On the 70th floor of the GE Building, players and coaches were able to take in a clouded, but still breathtaking view of the New York skyline.
After the Top of the Rock visit, the team gathered together at street level to take pictures and celebrate the holiday at the historic Christmas Tree. The normally tall football team seemed relatively short under the 85 foot tall Norway Spruce as they posed for photos and glanced down at the ice skaters below.
Later that day, Mike Hull, DaeSean Hamilton, Jordan Lucas, Anthony Zettel, and Angelo Mangiro partook in the Pinstripe’s Bowl Media Day. The group toured through Yankee Stadium and enjoyed the rich history of the Yankees organization before meeting in the conference area for interviews. Lucas and Hamilton found themselves caught in the elevator with hardware that wasn’t necessarily for the Pinstripe Bowl.
Once the media day commenced, the rest of the team met at Yankee Stadium for a welcome reception that included Christmas Carols and an otherwise festive atmosphere.
Thursday, December 25:
On Christmas Day, the team stayed relaxed and comfortable as Sandy Barbour and James Franklin handed out gifts to the younger Nittany Lions staying inside the hotel.
While the majority of the country relaxed, opened presents, and stuff their faces, the football team hosted practice once again at Fordham to prep for Boston College. With less than two days left to prep for the bowl game, it seemed both players and coaches were more than happy to be bowling this year rather than staying home and watching the games from their couches. Herb Hand, Penn State’s Offensive Line Coach and Run Game Coordinator, seemed especially excited to celebrate Christmas this year.
— Herb Hand (@CoachHand) December 25, 2014
Friday, December 26:
After Christmas Day, the team returned to its normal schedule filled with practices, tours, and luncheons. As the rest of the country went back to work, a group of players including Sam Ficken, Brad Bars, and Devin Pryor — all of whom are Smeal Finance students — were lucky enough to ring the Opening Bell at the New York Stock Exchange. On a day when the stocks were surging after the Christmas boom, “We Are” chants could be heard throughout the floor as Penn State’s presence became well known, even on Wall Street.
After the bell was rung, Brad Bars stated, “It was a once in a lifetime opportunity to be able to come into the New York Stock Exchange and ring the bell.” He later continued, “It’s cool to see the atmosphere out here and it’s been a great time.”
Sam Ficken, who rang the opening bell, seemed relieved that he didn’t mess anything up, but was gracious to experience an opportunity that he knows not many others will get the chance to do.
As the day continued, the Nittany Lions finally caught a glimpse of the Yankees locker room to find their gear already set up for the game. The team toured Yankee Stadium and eventually held a walk-thru practice as one final prep to work out some last minute kinks.
After the final walk-thru, the players ventured over to the Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center, located on the east side of Manhattan. The treatment center serves as an icon in cancer research and has been ranked as one of the best in the country. Always thinking about the kids, it seemed our players were just as excited to meet the kids as much as they were.
Looking through the photos and videos, this week has been constantly filled with amazing sights, great food, and unforgettable experiences. The only thing left on the itinerary is the kick off set for 4:30 p.m. at Yankee Stadium. Regardless of a win or lose, it looks like this has been an incredible experience in New York. However, most would agree with Sinatra’s goal to wake up in the city that never sleeps and find that we’re “number one.”
Photos: Penn State Football