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Sean Clifford ‘Having A Blast’ Ahead Of Final Collegiate Showdown

Six years ago, Sean Clifford was at home watching the 2017 Rose Bowl with his family. His favorite play from that game was when Trace McSorley rolled to his right and aired one down the field to Chris Godwin for a 30-yard touchdown.

At the time, Clifford was a Penn State commit gearing up to arrive in Happy Valley the following season. The now-veteran signal-caller remembers thinking during his recruiting process, “I don’t think I think could find a place like [Penn State.]” It was always Penn State. Penn State was already “home.”

For Clifford, playing in the Rose Bowl mirrors the old “dreams DO come true” mantra. Shortly after Penn State’s Rose Bowl fate was announced, the Cincinnati native posted a photo on social media showing him in front of Rose Bowl Stadium as a child.

Clifford’s six-year Penn State career will culminate with a matchup with Utah in The Granddaddy of Them All in Pasadena. In what will be his 51st game and 46th start as Penn State’s starting quarterback, Clifford will aim to capture the Nittany Lions’ second-ever Rose Bowl victory, saying he wants “nothing else but a Rose Bowl win” for the university. At the same time, however, he’s soaking in what will be his final time donning the blue and white.

“Winning the game is obviously most important, but at the same time, it’s my last one — I want to be able to see those guys one more time because it’s just not going to be the same… I’ve seen a bunch of guys come in and out of the program,” Clifford said. “I’ve heard the stories of, you know, once you leave, it’s just not the same. The NFL is not the same, the work environment is not the same. It’s not the locker room like college ball.”

The four-year starter has served as the face of the program during his tenure as the Nittany Lions’ starter. He’s led Penn State to two 10-win seasons and has the most passing yards and highest completion percentage in program history. Accolades and success aside, Clifford is looking forward to the “blessing” of just representing and leading Penn State one final time on January 2.

“I’m excited for my last game,” he said. “I’m excited to represent Penn State one more time and do it in a big fashion with the Rose Bowl. So, I can’t ask for anything more. Realistically, I’m having a blast and enjoying every moment of it.”

“It’s just so fun to be here and be with the teammates, who I love and appreciate,” he continued.

This past month has featured a lot of reflection for Clifford. He explained that it’s been easier for him to come to terms with the end of his collegiate career because he’s known it’s coming, as opposed to a player who may have had to make a decision on whether to come back or declare for the NFL Draft.

As part of that reflection, Clifford and his family rewatched some of his old Penn State games, as his parents recorded all of his games on their old TV. The Clifford family relived games such as the 2019 White Out against Michigan and even some games from 2018 before Clifford was the starter.

It’s been roughly seven and a half years since Clifford became a Nittany Lion, as he verbally committed to Penn State in July of 2015. The longtime captain called the time between his commitment and now the “best eight years of my life.”

When Clifford and the Nittany Lions take the field in Pasadena, they’ll do so with an almost-complete squad. Just two Nittany Lions have confirmed they won’t play in the bowl game — Joey Porter Jr., who opted out, and Parker Washington, who’s injured. Clifford is “proud” of Penn State’s lack of opt-outs and thinks it’s important for the program.

“I’m proud of it for sure,” Clifford said. “I think that it just shows the compassion and the love that this group has for one another. I think it magnitude of the Rose Bowl, also. I think it’s very important that the guys who were here the whole season finish this thing off the right way. I think that we did a really good job of motivating to get to this point. It’s the Rose Bowl, it’s The Granddaddy of Them All. So realistically, if you’re not excited for this one, then I don’t know really what else to do for you.”

While he’s firmly focused on the game ahead and closing out his collegiate career the right way, Clifford did share a glimpse of his post-Penn State plans. QB1 said he’ll head down to Florida after the Rose Bowl to begin training for the 2023 NFL Draft.

The final curtain on Clifford’s Penn State career will lower when the Nittany Lions take on Utah at 5 p.m. EST on Monday, January 2, at Rose Bowl Stadium in Pasadena. The game will air on ESPN.

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About the Author

Gabe Angieri

Gabe is a senior majoring in journalism and is 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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