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Grant Haley Talks Choosing Penn State, Beating Ohio State On Adam Breneman’s Podcast

Former Penn State football defensive back Grant Haley joined Adam Breneman’s podcast to discuss a wide range of topics ranging from his decision to attend Penn State to his journey as an undrafted free agent to joining the New York Giants to of course, his legendary touchdown against Ohio State in the 2016 White Out.

Haley is best-remembered in Happy Valley for returning Marcus Allen’s blocked field goal to help the Nittany Lions knock off the then-No. 2 Buckeyes on their way to a Big Ten Championship.

“To make that play was very special,” Haley said. “That was just a moment that will always be remembered.”

Before he could provide fans with one of the most iconic moments in program history, Haley was initially committed to Vanderbilt, but followed head coach James Franklin from Nashville to Happy Valley when he got the Penn State job. Haley’s mother Carla graduated from Penn State in the 1980s, and he said he had always thought about playing for Penn State. Haley said his first recruiting trip to State College was “special,” and that he soon fell in love with Penn State.

Haley said that while he was visiting Vanderbilt during his junior year of high school, he met none other than former Penn State quarterback Trace McSorley. Their mothers introduced them to each other and made them take each other’s phone number. When McSorley chose Penn State, Haley texted immediately, and the pair met up at Penn State a few weeks later. Haley said that that weekend influenced his decision to come to Penn State.

Haley described his transition from high school football in Georgia to Big Ten competition “interesting” but “comfortable.” Haley said teammates, like Donovan Smith, Adrian Amos, and Ryan Keiser, taught him what it means to be a Penn Stater.

Haley’s commitment to the program was generated, in part, by his belief in Franklin

“I really believed in what he was saying. Even when he was at Vanderbilt, he was saying that he believes that he is going to take this program to the next level,” Haley said. “He is one of those coaches who has the best interest for you, on and off the field. I know a lot of people I talk to agree with that. He reached out to me a couple of months ago when my mom was getting surgery.”

Haley’s time at Penn State, however, wasn’t all blocked field goals and Big Ten Championships. He said that a missed play in Penn State’s game against Northwestern during his sophomore season severely rattled his confidence.

“It was just a play I didn’t make in the game. I felt like it costed us that game,” Haley said. “We were lost the next couple games after that. That was a tough, tough time for me as a football player.”

But of course, Haley ended up recovering from that low point to etch his name in Penn State football’s extensive history with his touchdown against the Buckeyes the next season.

The 2017 season was Haley’s last in Happy Valley, but he wasn’t chosen in the 2018 draft. The process of making an NFL team as a free agent didn’t faze him — instead, he said he was motivated.

“It’s a bunch of grinding. Whatever the coach asks you to do, you do,” Haley said of the process of making a roster. “You have to work your way up the depth chart. You can’t be hurt, can’t be late. You have to shut up and do your work.”

He made the Giants’ practice squad during his rookie season. Seven weeks into the season, while Haley and Saquon Barkley were on their way back to New York from Penn State, he received a call from his agent, who said he’d been called up to the full squad.

Haley’s first game as a Giant was against the Falcons in Atlanta — Haley’s hometown. He described playing his first professional game in front of his friends and family as a “surreal moment”.

Haley also spoke about his mother’s recent illness, and how it has affected his mindset as a competitor.

“She is a woman of God. We believe God is going to take care of her,” he said. “For me, it’s pretty simple. Everything she battled through for 6-7 years, she only missed two or three games of my Penn State career. When I think about if I’m tired, or if I’m undrafted, or if there is something not going my way, the effort and energy she put in to show her strength for us, her drive and passion for the things she loves, I can toughen up and have that chip on my shoulder. She is my best friend.”

You can listen to the full podcast, which also includes a discussion of the atrocious officiating in the Penn State vs. Iowa game, here

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About the Author

Gabe Angieri

After a four-year career with Onward State, Gabe is now a college graduate and off to the real world. He shockingly served as the blog’s managing editor during the 2022-23 school year and covered football for much of his Onward State tenure, including trips to the Outback Bowl and Rose Bowl. For any professional inquiries, please email Gabe at [email protected]. You can still see his bad sports takes on Twitter at @gabeangieri.

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