Penn State Men’s Soccer Pays Homage To Mack Brady With Shutout Win
No matter how many wins or losses Penn State men’s soccer earns in a season, the Mack Brady Match never needs extra motivation.
On Tuesday night, the Nittany Lions played in their eighth rendition of the game, a tradition born after 8-year-old Mack Brady tragically passed away on New Year’s Eve in 2012 due to a blood infection.
Brady was an avid soccer fan and player, and his love for Penn State caused the creation of the annual match. A goalkeeper himself, the Nittany Lions couldn’t have found a better way to pay tribute to Mack after posting a shutout Tuesday night.
“Going back to [former Penn State ‘keeper] Josh Levine last year, a clean sheet in the Mack Brady game is what I really wanted to achieve. That is what our backline has been working for, it means the world to us,” goalkeeper Kris Shakes said.
Since Mack tragically passed just 16 days before his ninth birthday, the Brady family has continued to have a strong influence on the Penn State men’s soccer program.
The university began the Mack Brady Fund that has now grown in excess of $270,000. The men’s soccer program embraced the family as one of its own and, along with the annual match, hosts a winter goalkeeper clinic for the local youth. The Nittany Lion goalkeepers and their pupils have become close-knit and are fondly referred to as the GKU (Goalkeeper Union).
Additionally, with help from the fund, the Bradys help supply the team with goalkeeping equipment each year.
“It means a lot because this game is obviously a big game for the goalkeepers,” Shakes said. “We are grateful as ‘GKU’ to be able to have these gifts from the Brady family. We know they support the goalkeepers in general at Penn State. It was so good to see them and fight for them.”
This year’s clinic was virtual and limited fans were present for the big game, but nothing could take away from what it meant for Shakes and the rest of Penn State to keep Ohio State scoreless. Luckily, the Brady’s were able to attend Tuesday’s match for some extra motivation.
“It’s great to see the Brady family outside watching the game,” Shakes said. “Incredible to see them supporting, I saw them as soon as we began warmups.”
No one on the current roster, including head coach Jeff Cook, was around when Mack passed away. However, his story has seamlessly passed through each generation of Nittany Lions.
When Cook took over as the head coach in 2018 for Bob Warming, he didn’t let the tradition stop. After three Mack Brady games, Cook has had time to reflect on just how much it means for himself and the rest of the program.
“It’s a very special aspect of our program,” Cook said. “Although I was never fortunate enough to meet him before he passed, this is something that we feel keeps his legacy alive and current and honors his memory and his love for Penn State.”
Unfortunately, due to COVID-19, the community was deprived of a proper ceremony and fanbase this year. But Cook made sure to hammer home the importance of the tradition.
“I’m new to the Mack Brady Match, but Jeff made it clear. He explained to us new guys how important the match is,” freshman goalscorer Peter Mangione said. “It made the game a little bit more special, so to score the winner of it, in front of fans, words can’t really describe it right now.
“I know it’s a big thing for our goalies, Shakes, Owen, Alex, and David. They are close with the family, and that makes it even more special that we got a shutout tonight,” Mangione added.
Cook made it clear that he cherishes the support of the Brady family, and the connection won’t go away any time soon. After a pandemic could only postpone the event, the games can only get more meaningful from here.
“We spoke about him yesterday in training,” Cook said after Tuesday’s win. “It is extremely special that we continue the tradition. As long as I am head coach here, that is going to be an integral part of our program.”
To help continue to support Mack’s neverending love for the game, you can donate to the Mack Brady Fund here.
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