Jonathan Sutherland Proving To Be Strong Candidate To Start Alongside Garrett Taylor At Safety
Redshirt sophomore safety Jonathan Sutherland definitely took the road less traveled on his way to becoming a Penn State football player.
Sutherland hails from Ottawa, Canada, and he first played the sport in Happy Valley when he was just an eighth grader. Penn State doesn’t bring in talent from the United States’ Northern neighbors often, but he also isn’t the first Canadian to don the Nittany Lions’ blue and white.
While growing up in Canada, Sutherland began playing football in elementary school when he saw his friends playing. He decided to give the game a shot, and he recalled “falling in love with it” at his first practice.
The now 20-year old safety traveled to State College to participate in a summer football camp and get his first taste of American competition at the age of 12. Sutherland, who’s set to battle for a starting safety job at Penn State’s training camp in August, looks back on his first experience in State College quite fondly.
“It was pretty overwhelming,” Sutherland recalled, “but I knew that this was what I wanted to do. I knew I wasn’t going to drive eight hours all the way down here just to sell myself short.”
Sutherland has come a long way since those summer camp days as a young kid. The redshirt sophomore is firmly in the mix to start at safety alongside senior Garrett Taylor, and the competition will likely boil down to him and Lamont Wade.
The physical safety has plenty of respect for Taylor’s talent and wants a chance at playing alongside him, but Sutherland’s appreciation for his leadership ability is even more clear. As a younger player, Sutherland saw the veteran’s impact on the position group first-hand — especially as it was amplified by a few key departures.
“When Marcus [Allen] and Troy Apke left, Garrett definitely stepped up and used his knowledge of the game and his experience within the program to help us and benefit all of the younger guys, including myself,” Sutherland said.
In 2018, Sutherland posted 38 total tackles, along with a forced fumble on a punt return against Indiana, while appearing mostly as a backup to Taylor and Nick Scott and on special teams. He appeared in all 13 games for the Nittany Lions last season, and that experience should prove to be very valuable in 2019.
With 20 career appearances, Lamont Wade may have a slight edge over Sutherland in terms of game experience, but the battle for that second starting safety spot seems to be neck and neck. Safeties coach Tim Banks is confident in both player’s abilities, meaning that the pair could very realistically split time alongside Taylor throughout the season.
While he’ll likely be much more involved in James Franklin’s plans for the defense this season, Sutherland’s expectations for himself haven’t changed.
“I just want to come in every single day and give 100 percent effort,” Sutherland said. “I’m going to do the little things and make the little sacrifices that will help me put myself in the best position possible.”
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