Penn State Football Should Add Last Names To ‘Generations Of Greatness’ Uniforms
In 2017, Penn State football debuted alternate uniforms for the first time in the program’s 130-year existence, paying homage to past eras of on-field excellence.
The throwback rendition of the Nittany Lions’ typical basic blues includes elements from several unique jersey combinations, ranging from block numbers displayed throughout the 1950s to white trim on each sleeve, which was last a permanent fixture in 2011.
From the addition of white cleats to honor the 1979 Sugar Bowl squad to the Lion Shrine replacing the collar’s usual athletic logo, the look has become a Homecoming Week staple for six of the last seven years.
However, a key element appears to be lacking from the uniform paying homage to past groups who molded the program into what it stands as today. To truly represent each “Generation of Greatness” within Penn State’s storied past, last names should undoubtedly be added to the once-per-year uniform alteration.
While the combined 22-16 record in jerseys displaying each player’s last name on the back of the Nittany Lions’ uniforms doesn’t equate to an unparalleled span of success on paper, its significance carries far more weight than just wins and losses.
Entering fall camp ahead of Bill O’Brien’s first campaign at the Nittany Lions’ helm in 2012, the NCAA levied unprecedented sanctions on his squad’s initial roster. Although the then-four-year bowl ban, the loss of 13 seasons of vacated wins, and a $60 million fine tainted Penn State’s immediate image, one penalty hurt O’Brien’s group harder than any other ruling.
The NCAA allowed all Penn State players to transfer away from the Lasch Building premises without penalty, granting each outbound prospect immediate eligibility at the institution of his choice if gifted an offer.
Thanks to team captains among the likes of All-American linebacker Michael Mauti and legacy fullback Michael Zordich, just nine players from the 2011 roster failed to compete for O’Brien during his first go-around manning the blue and white.
Up until 2012, Paterno’s group donned classic jerseys without nameplates, holding true to his adage that “the name on the front of the jersey is what really matters, not the one on the back.”
But in the wake of the Nittany Lions’ tumultuous offseason heading into the 2012 slate, O’Brien felt as though each player not only possessed the right to represent Penn State on the gridiron but to exemplify themselves given the opportunity to bolt for another team free of consequences.
“We want our fans to know and recognize these young men,” O’Brien said before the Nittany Lions’ 2012 home opener. “They have stuck together during tough times, and I commend them for the leadership they have shown. Moving forward, I’m deeply committed to honoring Penn State’s traditions, while building a bright future for our football program.”
Despite losing their first two matchups of the campaign that year, the 2012 Nittany Lions proved to be one of the most meaningful bunches in the program’s storied history, littered with undefeated groups and National Championship units.
O’Brien guided Penn State to eight victories across its last 10 showings, picking up six conference wins, and dropping two battles to top-20 squads in Ohio State and Nebraska. Moreover, O’Brien took home Bear Bryant Award honors, given to college football’s most outstanding head coach.
Moving forward, high-profile, blue-chip recruits including Christian Hackenberg and Adam Brenemen helped cultivate a new era of Penn State football with swagger, only accentuated by the team’s newfound look with last names highlighting the jersey’s backside.
For the last nine campaigns, the Nittany Lions have reverted back to their original look, personifying its “no names, all game” adage of old. The change, made by James Franklin and Co. ahead of the 2015 campaign, was widely embraced by droves of Penn State’s loyal fanbases.
But for at least one week per season, if the Nittany Lions’ jerseys are going to honor the program’s true “Generations of Greatness,” it must include the most important uniform element of O’Brien’s tenure.
Moving forward, the addition of names would honor each group from 2012 to 2014, while providing the current athletes the opportunity to rep their last names at the forefront of the NIL era.
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