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‘I’m Just The Happiest Dude’: Sean Clifford Staying Positive In Twilight Of Penn State Career

Not many people can say they’ve been the starting quarterback and captain of a Big Ten football team for four years. Sean Clifford is one of the few who can boast that feat.

The veteran signal-caller started Saturday’s game against Indiana after there was plenty of chatter during the week about a potential quarterback change. With former five-star prospect Drew Allar waiting in the wings, paired with James Franklin’s refusal to name a starting quarterback during the week, many thought a changing of the guard could be in the cards.

However, after his team’s 45-14 win over Indiana, Franklin said it was never really a debate as to who his starting signal-caller would be.

“I told you I had discussion with members of the staff,” Franklin said. “But nothing had changed from our perspective. Everybody still saw it the same way. I wanted to make sure I wasn’t too close to the decision.”

“For us, it wasn’t a lot of dialogue.” he continued. “It was one discussion that we had. And after that we just kind of went back to our normal operation.”

In what was a dominant win for the Nittany Lions, Clifford didn’t have to do much. He completed 15 of his 23 passes for 229 yards and an interception while relying heavily on an effective running game that accounted for four touchdowns.

Clifford played into the third quarter and exited in favor of Allar after his squad took a commanding 31-7 lead. No one batted an eye when Clifford’s day was done, though. Like much of the season, all Penn State fans cared about was seeing Allar play.

No one seemed to care that Clifford brought his career passing yards total to 9,884 yards, which leaves him just 15 yards behind Trace McSorley for the program’s all-time record, a feat he’ll most certainly reach next week at home against Maryland.

Allar is the shiny new toy — the iPhone 14, if you will. Many see Clifford as just an Android. The veteran quarterback is aware of all the outside noise and criticism. It’s hard not to be.

Clifford never seems to let the noise get to him, at least publicly. At the end of the day, Clifford is human. I don’t think anyone would be surprised or necessarily blame him if jealousy began to leak in. Despite the constant calls for Allar to replace him as the starter, the veteran’s constant praise for the true freshman is a sign of true leadership.

“I thought that Drew made a lot of good plays today. He just keeps continuing to grow… Drew and his attitude toward everything is fantastic,” Clifford said after the game. “We’re just such a tight-knit quarterback room. That just makes it so easy to come into work, and that’s been the best part of all of this.”

The criticism toward Clifford has become routine. It’s always “Drew could do this, Drew could do that,” while at the same time it’s “Clifford can’t do this, Clifford can’t do that.” The Cincinnati native doesn’t have any resentment for that, though.

“I can’t get mad at people being critical,” Clifford said. “And I won’t get mad at people being critical. I’m just blessed to be in the position that I am. I’m living out a dream that I’ve had for years and years and years. So for me, I don’t really pay attention to it because I’m just the happiest dude.”

It’s almost as if Clifford is at peace at this point in his career. He may possibly be the most scrutinized Penn State quarterback ever, whether it has been warranted or not. At times, it undoubtedly has been warranted. That comes with being the starting quarterback at a major college football program.

As cliche as it sounds, however, Clifford really is living out his dream, which is something no one can take away from him. He took a moment postgame to look at the bigger picture, something that is somewhat of a rarity within James Franklin’s program that preaches the “1-0” mentality.

“If you take [all the outside noise away], and you look at what I’m doing right now, I’m living out my dream of playing college football at the highest level for a team that I’ve been a captain for for four years — for a community that has had my back and realistically been very good to me,” Clifford said.

Some fans will forever resent Clifford for not living up to the expectations they had for him. For never beating Ohio State. For never winning a Big Ten championship. And for never leading the Nittany Lions to the College Football Playoff. Clifford shares that disappointment. Those are things he would’ve loved to do, too.

He has been at Penn State for six years. He has started 42 games and has had his fair share of ups and downs. However, in what is now the twilight of his Nittany Lion career, QB1 is grateful for the ride.

“It sucks to lose. That’s for sure,” Clifford said. “Don’t get me wrong — I would love to win every game. Obviously, very competitive. But at the same time, I wake up every day, win or lose, a very happy person just because not many people get to experience this. So, taking every day as a blessing for sure.”

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About the Author

Gabe Angieri

Gabe is a senior majoring in journalism and is suddenly Onward State's managing editor. He grew up in Lindenhurst, New York, and has had the absolute misfortune of rooting for the Jets, Mets, and Knicks. If you want to see his bad sports takes, follow him on Twitter @gabeangieri and direct all hate mail and death threats to [email protected]

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