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Penn State Love Stories: Love At Pman First Sight

When Janelle Rothacker and Robert Al-Moustafa first crossed paths in a training session, they had no idea that a line at Primanti Bros. would be their next encounter. Four years later, they said, “I do.”

Courtesy of Janelle and Robert Al-Moustafa

How does a bar line lead to meeting your soulmate? Well, let’s learn how it happened for the Al-Moustafas.

Picture this: It’s the first weekend of the fall 2018 semester. The Friday night of Sylly Week is calling every student’s name. The line at Primanti’s is long and has no chance of moving. Rothacker heads downtown with her friends and snags a spot in line. Luckily, Al-Moustafa finds a place right behind her.

Because it was the beginning of the year, Rothacker had secured a new job with Campus Recreation, while Al-Moustafa was already at supervisor status. He had conducted new employee training with Rothacker as one of his students. Rothacker had taken the class earlier in the week, so the two immediately recognized each other downtown.

Al-Moustafa decided to strike up a conversation in the stationary Pman line and decided together that it was time to move to another bar. In just a quick walk, Rothacker’s friends had no problem getting along with Al-Moustafa while listening to My Hero Zero at Champs.

The two hit it off so well that the following Saturday Rothacker headed to Al-Moustafa’s football tailgate and watched Penn State beat Appalachian State in overtime. What a first game to experience together!

On Labor Day 2018, their first “official” date commenced at the “most romantic place ever” — iHop.

“I saw on her Instagram bio that it said she’s a pancake enthusiast, so I went off that,” Al-Moustafa said.

It wasn’t until October 14 that the couple became official — the day after Penn State’s Homecoming game against Michigan State and after meeting her parents.

“Of course, we tell our love story based on football games,” Rothacker said.

Although their love for Penn State is stronger because they found each other at University Park, it’s almost a case of fate. Al-Moustafa is a New Jersey native and always had a feeling he’d be in State College, but that wasn’t Rothacker’s situation.

“I did not choose to go to Penn State. I was a transfer student, actually. I was a recruiter athlete in high school, and my two schools came down to Penn State and a small school in North Carolina. I chose the small school,” Rothacker said. “I went there for a year, and I hated it.”

To transfer to Penn State from another school, you typically must be a junior. Rothacker worked a form of magic and was able to transfer at the start of her sophomore year. Penn State “happened to be next on her list.”

A fun fact learned about Rothacker is she’s a trusty Onward State alum. Her senior column included an apology to Penn State, specifically regretting not having it first on her list of schools.

“I love Penn State so much now. I can’t imagine choosing anything else,” Rothacker said.

Rothacker and Al-Moustafa have now been to other Onward State alumni weddings because the friendships always live on. See, joining this blog is pretty awesome.

Learning about the couple’s journey to Penn State was just an introduction to what was in store following graduation. By May 2019, their lives headed to different states. With Al-Moustafa in Texas and Rothacker in Nebraska, a long-distance relationship was underway.

“I flew there two or three times and we saw each other for holidays in 2019. Then, COVID shut everything down,” Rothacker said.

After the shutdown, the couple went eight months without seeing each other in person. In total, they did long-distance for over two-and-a-half years. To finally end the time apart, Al-Moustafa proposed to Rothacker on January 30, 2022.

“She gave me her best friend’s number months in advance ‘for when I needed it,'” Al-Moustafa said. “There was a picnic set up [at our favorite walking spot] where I would propose… Some of my friends would be hiding behind trees taking photos and had a photographer there as well.”

Fast forward to September 16, 2022, Al-Moustafa and Rothacker had a destination wedding. They’ll be the first to tell you that they got married on a Friday to avoid the wedding overlap with Penn State’s game against Auburn.

Courtesy of Janelle and Robert Al-Moustafa

“Rob and I rented a 24-bedroom oceanfront home in the Outer Banks for a whole week, and we invited our closest family and friends to stay at the house,” Rothacker said.

Although the wedding wasn’t in Happy Valley, they sure brought the Penn State love. The wedding colors were blue and white. Al-Moustafa wore a blue tuxedo, and Nittany Lion cornhole boards were a must.

Courtesy of Janelle and Robert Al-Moustafa

That isn’t the best part. Inside Al-Moustafa’s ring is an engraving of “We Are.” The couple recognized that their marriage was not only a formation of “we,” but they also paid tribute to where their love started.

Courtesy of Janelle and Robert Al-Moustafa

The married couple is now living happily in upstate New York where they reminisce on their time in State College.

“Even though you’re a school of 40,000, you have a small family routed there. I met some of my closest friends, and I met my wife at Penn State. I built the foundation that set the success up for my career through Penn State,” Al-Moustafa said. “It’s ingrained in our hearts.”

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About the Author

Larkin Richards

Larkin is a senior majoring in broadcast journalism. The only words that leave her mouth are "yinz" and "dippy eggs." Luckily, her writing has much more substance than that. As a Steelers and Pirates fan, sports can become a hot debate. Share your thoughts on dogs (specifically Boston Terriers) with her at: [email protected]

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