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Connor Darcey’s Legacy Lives On Through Penn State Alum’s Documentary

“16”, a documentary crafted by a Penn State graduate, follows the legacy of Connor Darcey and how, to this day, his spirit still lives on among Penn State men’s lacrosse, past teammates, coaches, and his family.

After recently learning about No. 16 and what it has meant to this program, I knew I was going to be in for an emotional and heartfelt documentary when it screened in State College this week. Unsurprisingly, Penn State alum Paddy Cotter delivered.

The documentary started off with an interview with head coach Jeff Tambroni and the men’s lacrosse team completing 16 pushups. Star players like Chris Sabia, Colby Kneese, and Mike Aronow were featured early and spoke on what No. 16 meant for the team.

After introducing the legacy, home videos of a young Darcey showed him growing up and his relationship with sports. Darcey was dominant in every sport he ever tried. Whether it was hockey, basketball, or baseball, he always gave it his all until he realized that lacrosse was his end goal.

Will Darcey, Connor’s older brother, would shoot hundreds of lacrosse balls at Connor to give him practice as a fearless goalie. The two ended up on the same lacrosse team at Wellesley High School in Boston.

The documentary then followed Darcey’s high school career and showed how everyone knew he was going to be a star from his freshman year. Past high school teammates spoke on how Darcey’s talent made him a very popular guy everyone wanted to be around.

Darcey went on to be featured in multiple newspapers throughout his high school career. The team ended up in the championships for Darcey’s senior year but lost.

The story of how Darcey ended up at Penn State might have been one of my favorite parts of the documentary. Multiple schools were interested in Darcey, but he knew coach Tambroni was going to take Penn State to new levels. Tambroni saw Darcey play at a tournament and knew that he had the type of passion that Penn State men’s lacrosse needed.

Darcey received a call from Tambroni in a plane bathroom and accepted the offer to commit to Penn State right before the plane took off.

The new Penn State goalie worked hard to start his sophomore year and earned himself the first-ever Big Ten Lacrosse Defensive Player Of The Week honor for Penn State.

Darcey made such an impression during his season that even coaches on other teams would go up to him after the game and congratulate his performance. In Penn State’s loss to Johns Hopkins in the Big Ten Semifinals, Blue Jays head coach Dave Pietramala congratulated Darcey and said that if he had better grades, he would have helped lead the Blue Jays to titles.

The documentary continued on to interviews with Darcey’s family about the moments leading up before the car crash that ultimately took his life. Darcey was at home egging his mom, Penny, to chug a beer, and when she was unsuccessful, he lifted her up from behind and dismissed her failed attempt. Penny went on to say she is grateful for how playful and joyful the final moments were with her son.

Darcey passed away later that day in June, and his death rocked the entire Wellesley and Penn State communities. Hundreds of people showed up on the lawn of the Darcey home to show their support and love for the family.

The 2016 season following Darcey’s death was tough on Penn State’s players and fans. James Burke was the first player to wear No. 16 after Darcey’s death, which sparked a tradition that will never die.

The team then went on to be one of the most successful in the Big Ten in 2019 by posting a 16-2 record. The Nittany Lions won the Big Ten Championship and made it all the way to the NCAA Tournament’s Final Four but lost to Yale.

Chris Sabian, who wore No. 16 in 2019, spoke on how he wore the jersey with pride and was happy to honor Darcey in such a successful season.

The rest of the documentary went on to follow how Teddy Darcey, Connor’s younger brother, thrived off his brother’s legacy to push himself to be the best goalie he could be. He wore the No. 1 at Wellesley High, Connor’s high school number, before going to an academy where he eventually would wear No. 16, too. Fittingly, Teddy is now a goalie at Penn State.

Cotter’s documentary did a wonderful job of capturing the emotion behind No. 16 and what it has meant to the Penn State men’s lacrosse team and those who knew Darcey. They carry on his legacy every day and play with him in their hearts.

The interviews with the Darcey family are really what made the documentary just that much more special. Seeing the emotion that Penny, Bill (Connor’s father), brothers Will and Teddy, past teammates, and coaches added so much emotion and meaning to the documentary.

“Creating a relationship with the Darcey family especially has been so much fun, inspiring, uplifting, and has taught me so many things,” Cotter said earlier this week. “The way they were able to describe their experience and give advice on how to get through such tragedy was something I will keep with me for the rest of my life.”

The documentary made it clear that Darcey made an impact on everyone who had the honor to meet him and that he will be honored for years and years to come.

Although you might’ve missed out on the documentary’s screening at The State Theatre, you can soon stream “16” online. According to its website, “16′ will be available to stream starting November 3.

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About the Author

Sarah Sacker

Sarah is a senior majoring in journalism and a writer for Onward State. She is from Annapolis, Maryland, and is a huge fan of the Ravens and Capitals. Follow her on Twitter @Sarah_Sacker8 or email her at sarah@onwardstate.com

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