Amani Oruwariye Given Opportunity To Honor Mother On Military Appreciation Day

Saturday’s game between No. 17 Penn State football and No. 18 Iowa was filled with special moments.

Backup quarterback Tommy Stevens was rewarded for his incredible patience with a crucial touchdown in the second quarter. Senior captain Nick Scott made the play of the game by intercepting a pass on his own goal line, and the team celebrated its first home victory in over a month by mobbing the South end zone as “Mo Bamba” by Sheck Wes blasted over the Beaver Stadium speakers.

While they were special, none of those moments topped Penn State emerging from the tunnel just before the start of the game.

Senior Amani Oruwariye’s mother, Karen, served in the Navy for 15 years. Like many military parents, Mrs. Oruwariye ran a tight ship at home and was a stern, but loving parent. Today was Military Appreciation Day at Beaver Stadium, so the cornerback was given a unique opportunity to honor his mother.

Oruwariye led the Nittany Lions out of the tunnel while holding his mom’s American flag. James Franklin and the Nittany Lions’ captains stood behind Oruwariye, who stood proudly and ran ahead of his teammates to meet his mother in the North end zone.

Head coach James Franklin reflected on the moment postgame and his appreciation for those who serve our country.

“I’m so thankful and so appreciative [for the military],” Franklin said. “We wanted to find some guys with parents who served our country, and Amani’s situation was great. It was even more special that Amani got to use his mom’s flag. I thought that was really cool.”

The pride on Amani Oruwariye’s face was palpable as he led the Nittany Lions out of the tunnel behind the South end zone.

Oruwariye has been a Nittany Lion since Franklin joined the program in 2014. It’s been a long time since Franklin recruited the cornerback, but his mother made Franklin’s visit to the Oruwariye household in Tampa, FL during the recruiting process very memorable.

“During the recruiting process, Mom was tough,” the head coach recalled. “I remember going to his home visit, I’m smiling and Mom just sat there on the couch, grilling me and trying to feel me out. She wasn’t trying to hand her baby over to anybody. Sitting on that couch in Tampa, Florida with his mom and two brothers — Amani was smiling, and Mom was not.”

“Mom’s now finally smiling and hugging me, so that’s great. I finally wore her down.”

Penn State typically tries to spotlight players with ties to the military during its annual Military Appreciation Day. Former Marine Immanuel Iyke was a walk-on defensive tackle for the Nittany Lions — he was given the opportunity to lead the team out of the tunnel on Military Appreciation Night in 2016.

Since there aren’t any former military service members on Penn State’s roster, Oruwariye was given the opportunity to lead the charge this season because of his family ties.

“It just kind of came to me,” the cornerback said postgame. “This year, they wanted to use me and my mom [for the pregame ceremony]. I thought it was really cool. It was an honor and a great experience — I’m happy I did it.”

Mrs. Oruwariye got to see her son play a great game on Saturday — he made six tackles and broke up two passes as part of an overall excellent day for the secondary.

Oruwariye ran all the way to the North end zone to greet his mother and return the flag to her before the start of the game. He and his mother “hugged it out,” and he expressed his love and gratitude for her service to the United States.

James Franklin got a taste of Mrs. Oruwariye’s parenting style during that home visit. Amani himself is glad that he was raised by someone with that kind of parenting style, and said that it helped mold him into the person he is today.

“My mom is very protective of me and my brothers,” he said. “She tries to see through any of the BS, basically. I’m glad she’s like that. She’s tough as a Navy vet, but I love her.”

Junior linebacker Cam Brown grew up in a home with two Navy veterans as parents, so he got a similar experience to Oruwariye’s growing up. Brown said that his upbringing in a Navy household helped shape him into the man he is today.

“You definitely see that strict aspect. They’re really stern on you,” Brown said. “My mom was always the punctual one and made sure that we were always on time to things. It helped me get to where I am today.

Cam Brown is a strong future candidate to lead the Nittany Lions out of the tunnel on Military Appreciation Day, as both of his parents served in the Navy.

Redshirt junior Tommy Stevens has been a Nittany Lion as long as Oruwariye and said that he and the cornerback are very close. Stevens hasn’t met Mrs. Oruwariye personally yet, but he can definitely tell that Oruwariye grew up in a military household.

“It rubs off,” Stevens said. “I’ve never met Amani’s mother before, but I can definitely see those traits in him.”

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About the Author

Mikey Mandarino

In the most upsetting turn of events, Mikey graduated from Penn State with a digital & print journalism degree in the spring of 2020. He covered Penn State football and served as an editor for Onward State from 2018 until his graduation. Mikey is from Bedminster, New Jersey, so naturally, he spends lots of time yelling about all the best things his home state has to offer. Mikey also loves to play golf, but he sucks at it because golf is really hard. If you, for some reason, feel compelled to see what Mikey has to say on the internet, follow him on Twitter @Mikey_Mandarino. You can also get in touch with Mikey via his big-boy email address: [email protected]

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