Staff Picks: Penn State Documentaries We Want To See

Now that ESPN’s highly touted documentary, “The Last Dance,” has wrapped up, sports fans are left with a Michael Jordan-shaped hole in their hearts.

The 10-part series featured Jordan’s journey with the 1997-1998 Chicago Bulls and offered glimpses into his rise to stardom in the NBA. The documentary brought fans along as Jordan experienced conflict, controversy, and glory en route to six championships.

Much like Jordan and the NBA, Penn State has had its fair share of fascinating stories and larger-than-life figures over the years. With that said, our staffers brainstormed some Happy Valley documentaries they’d like to see in the future.

Frankie Marzano: Joe Paterno

Joe Paterno was easily one of the most influential figures in Penn State history. He became the Nittany Lions’ head coach in 1966 while preaching about “success with honor,” a mantra students still live by today. Paterno helped build the reputation Penn State had today and lived a life that’d make for spectacular television.

As both a Penn State and college football legend, Paterno would be a great subject for a documentary. Whether he’s mic’d up in the locker room clad in rolled-up khakis and thick glasses or preaching success with honor to students, Paterno’s life is a story any Penn State fan would want to watch.

Matt DiSanto: Russ Rose

If there’s one Penn Stater in dire need of a closeup, it’s Russ Rose. The legendary Penn State women’s volleyball coach has led an incredibly interesting life while leading the Nittany Lions over the past four decades. Now entering his 42nd career season with the team after signing a contract extension this past season, Rose’s career easily rivals that of Michael Jordan, Tom Brady, and even Wayne Gretzky.

Speaking of Jordan, the Chicago Bulls legend has just six rings to his name. Rose? A big fat seven. He’s seen plenty of ups and downs en route to leading Penn State to the upper echelon of college volleyball and is absolutely deserving of a high-quality, episodic documentary series. Showrunners would have a field day with all the stories Rose has to tell.

Ryen Gailey: Sam Richards

I would love to see a documentary on a true Penn State icon — Sam Richards. By teaching SOC 119 with a zest for life, I believe he is one of the most fascinating and engaging individuals associated with Penn State. He’s traveled all over the world and meet so many unique people. Hearing some of their stories in this documentary would be amazing.

I also am extremely fascinated by what he does on a daily basis since he apparently doesn’t watch TV. I want to know what Richards does outside of the classroom since so much of his work is influenced by life experiences. I also imagine a documentary would do extremely well since many of the SOC 119 lectures have gone viral on YouTube. Who wouldn’t want to know what Richards eats for breakfast and what he does when he’s not yelling about something in Thomas 100?

Owen Abbey: Matt McGloin

There’s always something special about a walk-on that makes it big time, and former Penn State quarterback Matt McGloin sure was special. He was a walk-on who became the starting quarterback that led the Nittany Lions and left the team as its leader in passing touchdowns.

McGloin had a rocky start to his college career. He was the third quarterback on the depth chart during his sophomore year in 2010, but because of injuries and poor playing, he was only able to start midway through the season. His play even led the Nittany Lions to the Outback Bowl. By 2012, he would be one of the best quarterbacks in the Big Ten, eventually winning the Burlsworth Trophy, which is given to the best player who started their career as a walk-on.

It’s the perfect story of going through all sorts of challenges. McGloin won the starting job in 2010 but had a horrible performance in the Outback Bowl. McGloin became the starter again in 2011 but had his season spoiled by factors outside his control. Then, with a new coach in Bill O’Brien and no chance at a bowl game, McGloin shined the brightest he could, finishing his final season with a bang. Who wouldn’t want to see that story?

Will Pegler: Pat Chambers

Penn State men’s basketball head coach Pat Chambers has had quite a ride in the world of college basketball. A disciple of Villanova head coach Jay Wright, Chambers spent time at Boston University before arriving in Happy Valley in 2011. The Philadelphia native has battled through plenty of adversity with the Nittany Lions before climbing into the nation’s top 10 this past season.

While his career at Penn State would be an interesting topic for a documentary, I also feel his life before would bring plenty of intrigues. Before he had even entered the world of college basketball, the head coach was stabbed at a bar in 2002 and was seriously (and nearly fatally) injured. Today, the head coach credits that life-changing moment for his energetic and never-quit attitude. I think a feature of this moment along with his career in Happy Valley would be awesome to watch.

Gabe Angieri: Saquon Barkley

Saquon Barkley, although only 23 years old, is such an iconic figure in Happy Valley that a documentary about him would be more than entertaining. Barkley shined during his time at Penn State and managed to establish himself as arguably the best running back in program history.

He followed up his iconic Penn State career by joining the New York Giants as the 2018 NFL Draft’s No. 2 overall pick and emerging into league-wide stardom. He’s also shined off the field on countless occasions through volunteer work. It’s not often that someone this young would draw intrigue for a documentary, but Barkley is an obvious exception.

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Posts from the all-student staff of Onward State.

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