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Four Penn State Football Lettermen Discuss Careers, Memories In Q&A Panel

Four Penn State lettermen — Lee Rubin, Freddie Scott, Jim Nelson, and Tom Pancoast — joined Penn State Alumni Association President Paul Clifford Saturday afternoon for a Q&A panel to wrap up the Blue & White Society’s annual PS i(heart)U week.

Rubin, Scott, and Nelson played under head coach Joe Paterno in the 1990s, while Pancoast wrapped up his Penn State career in 2017.

The four of them answered questions from Clifford, which ranged from what their Penn State moment was, to what advice they would give to college students right now.

The four discussed their favorite moments in blue and white, the advice they’d give college students, and their favorite stories relating to the late head coach.

What do you remember most about playing at Penn State?

As the panel navigated this question, each response emphasized that players were more than teammates. They were family.

“The greatest memory quite frankly and the thing I miss most is the camaraderie and the brotherhood,” Rubin said. “It is being apart of something bigger than yourself.”

Scott added that Penn State was different than a lot of schools in that its staff cared about you as not just a football player, but as a person.

“I don’t think you realize the depth of the relationships you cultivate with people,” Scott explained. “Everybody truly wanted what was in your best interest. That is what stood out to me the most about Penn State. They didn’t just see Freddie Scott the football player. They saw me as a person and wanted to develop me as a person.”

Nelson and Pancoast added similar thoughts when asked the same question.

“It was a good group of guys,” Nelson stated. “We learned from each other and did things before games on Thursday and Friday nights together.”

“It’s the relationships in the locker room,” Pancoast said. “I would do anything to get back in the locker room with those guys. They are all my best friends.”

Favorite Penn State moments

Clifford asked the four former players to discuss the moments defined them and made them believe they can compete at the collegiate level.

Scott brought up Penn State’s matchup against Michigan in 1994 and how they knew a victory would cement the team in history and earn the respect of national programs.

“We knew that Michigan game was going to be the big game,” Scott said. “We knew we were still technically the new kids on the block. No one really respected us. If we wanted a chance at a Big Ten Championship and to get the respect we thought we deserved, we knew that was a game we needed to take.”

As we know now, the Nittany Lions went into Ann Arbor and defeated the Wolverines 31-24 en route to becoming the No. 1 team in the nation days later.

Nelson ‘s breakout moment came when he fired up the team before a game. He added there have been some “uninspiring” pregame speeches, so he said he just started “spilling some words.” The ad-libbed speech helped Nelson and the team perform well that day.

Next, Rubin explained how his moment came in the first game of his college career. Willie Thomas, the starting safety at the time, got injured and left the game, forcing Rubin to become the “next man up.”

“Willie [Thomas] goes down and all I can hear is Coach Paterno yell, ‘WHERE’S RUBIN? WHERE’S RUBIN!?’,” Rubin explained with a laugh. “So I start looking for Rubin. I’m not going in there!”

The youngster in the room, Pancoast mentioned Penn State’s infamous White Out victory over Ohio State in 2016. After Mike Gesicki sprained his ankle early in the game, Pancoast stepped in to play a big role.

“That was obviously a big game for us,” Pancoast said. “The team kind of arrived at that point.”

He explained how his sister, a freshman at the time, found him on the field after the win when fans stormed the field. Pancoast said there’s even a video shot of his sister jumping on his back during that moment.

What advice would you give to students?

All four lettermen provided advice to current students that could help them transition from college life into the real world.

“Really build that network,” Nelson explained. “You don’t realize how important it is until you kind of get out to the real world. Get involved in as many things as possible, not just within your fraternity, sorority, or sport. Branch out and get to know all these different people.”

Rubin added networking using popular apps can go a long way to impress employers and establish yourself as a brand.

“Establishing a LinkedIn profile,” Rubin said. “I would make sure you have a LinkedIn profile and make sure it’s complete. Also, I would set a weekly goal to make three, five, seven connections every week. Really be strategic when developing that network. Stop just scrolling on Snapchat and Instagram. Start doing some proactive things to develop that network.”

Next, Scott suggested students should “work [their] gifts” and find a profession or career path that makes them happy.

“Most people so much on the job that they want without thinking about what there natural gifts and skill sets are,” Scott explained. “You can find a job or career path that integrates your gifts. If you do that, you will find a whole lot more success than if you find a career path that just has a paycheck.”

Pancoast emphasized that students should find something they truly enjoy rather than chasing where the money is.

“I definitely see a lot of my friends just taking the first job just to get a paycheck,” said Pancoast. “They really don’t know what they want to do and they didn’t actually try to find something that they like.”

Memories With Joe Paterno

One of the final segments had the four panelists describe their favorite stories from their days in Happy Valley. Rubin went first and didn’t disappoint with a classic JoePa story.

Following a tough day of practice, the late head coach noticed two players weren’t present at a post-practice meeting and were, in fact, late.

“Two guys come walking in. It was a couple of minutes after 2 [p.m.],” Rubin said. Rubin, with his Paterno impression, explained how the coach ripped into them.

“WHERE WERE YOU GUYS!,” Paterno yelled at them. Rubin said one of them was “dumb enough” to say, “Coach we were with our professor. We are only two minutes late.”

Rubin said Paterno gave all of them a lesson in math that day, explaining how they were actually 260 minutes late because the absent players wasted two minutes of 130 people. Those two then had to wake up at 6 a.m. every day until they ran 260 minutes.

From then on, Rubin knew to never be late. As the old adage goes, “If you aren’t 10 minutes early, you’re late.”

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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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