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December 9, 2012

Column: Program's success not a stroke of luck

Just a handful of hours after news broke that the Penn State football program had received three more much-needed verbal commitments to the Class of 2013, about 1,000 people arrived at the Penn Stater Hotel and Conference Center for a banquet.

NFL Hall of Famer Jack Ham was there, along with hundreds of other current and former Nittany Lion players, coaches, support personnel, athletic administrators and their friends and families, all in an effort to properly honor Penn State's senior class of 2012, and to a larger extent, the season that was.

This, of course, all coming a day after Mike Mauti was named to ESPN's All-America Team and head coach Bill O'Brien was selected as the national AT&T Coach of the Year.

A great weekend for Penn State football, no doubt, after what can only be considered 12 of the most difficult months a college football program has ever or will ever have to endure.

None of this, however, amounts to a Christmas miracle.

While the program was written a death sentence by prognosticators both outside and within the incredibly large Penn State community just moments after Mark Emmert walked off that stage in Indianapolis in late-July, the reality is that those who remained committed to success, regardless of seemingly impossible obstacles, didn't throw up their arms hoping and waiting for God's intervention to save them.

They worked without ceasing.

People that are known and deserve credit, and others that will never see their names written about or profiled on television, they all worked harder than they've ever worked in their lives.

The level of gratitude owed O'Brien is, in many ways, unparalleled. His dedication to moving an entire university forward, along with a football program severely hampered, has been on constant display.

From the barrage of media appearances - a role he's clearly uncomfortable with, but has improved at dramatically - to the late nights at the Lasch Building, this has been, presumably, the most grueling year of O'Brien's professional life.

It doesn't end with him, though. His assistants, the support staff, and all of the players deserve immense praise.

Sunday night, they got it, with Shane McGregor, Emery Etter, Mike Farrell, Matt Stankiewitch, Gerald Hodges, Stephon Morris, Michael Zordich, Jordan Hill, Sean Stanley, Matt McGloin and Michael Mauti all receiving individual team awards for their efforts.

There are more, of course, all of whom own personal stories of extra work and dedication that many of us will never learn.

When reflecting on the weekend that was, a weekend that included verbal commitments from Zayd Issah, Jonathan Walton and Anthony Smith, building Penn State's recruiting class of 2013 to 16 members (which, if reports are to be believed, will continue to grow in the coming days), along with national and local awards bestowing even greater honor onto the program, it's important to remember that none of it is an accident or stroke of luck.

Rather, it's a milestone and mile marker on a course that is far from complete and will continue to demand the same level of commitment and dedication shown throughout the past 12 months.







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