Penn State senior standouts Zack Mills and Derek Wake became local high school football legends less than 50 miles apart. In 2004, they will stand together as leaders of the Nittany Lions with their election as captains in a vote by their teammates.
Mills, a quarterback from Ijamsville, Md. and Wake, an outside linebacker from Beltsville, Md., were honored with their selection.
"It's an honor to be selected a captain at a school with such a great football tradition," said Mills. "I'm pleased that my teammates have such faith and confidence in me. I will strive to live up to the great tradition of previous Penn State captains."
"It's a great honor to be selected by your teammates," stated Wake. "It's a responsibility I'm willing and ready to take on."
The Nittany Lions have had game captains during each of the past four seasons, selecting the season captains at the end of the campaign.
The 6-3, 218-pound Mills is preparing for his third full season as the Nittany Lions' starting quarterback. He already owns 12 Penn State game, season and career passing and total offense records and is on the brink of breaking at least three more marks this season.
For the third consecutive season, Mills is a candidate for the Davey O'Brien Award, the oldest and most prestigious award in the nation for collegiate quarterbacks.
Last season, Mills was 136-of-251 (54.2) for 1,404 yards, with six touchdowns and five interceptions, missing most of the Minnesota game and all of the Wisconsin and Purdue games with a sprained ankle. The former Urbana High School standout also was fourth on the squad in rushing with 124 yards on 63 carries and one touchdown.
An All-Big Ten candidate, Mills already owns 12 schools records, including passing yards (399 vs. Iowa, 2002) and total offense (418 yards vs. Ohio State, 2001) in a game, career pass completions (451) and career total offense (6,002). He enters his senior season with 5,400 career passing yards, 470 short of passing Tony Sacca's school record of 5,869; 814 career pass attempts (11 shy of breaking Sacca's mark of 824); and 32 career touchdown passes, 10 short of breaking the mark of 41 held by Todd Blackledge and Sacca.
The 6-3, 238-pound Wake is a two-year starter and one the squad's premier athletes and playmakers. A Butkus Award and All-Big Ten candidate, he will anchor a defense that may have only two senior starters this season.
Wake led the Nittany Lions with eight tackles for loss and four sacks last season. He made 71 tackles (44 solo), good for fourth on the squad. The former DeMatha High School standout also is one of the nation's premier kick blockers, with six in his career (three field goals, two PAT and one punt).
Mills and Wake are on schedule to graduate in December.
Coach Joe Paterno's squad returns 32 lettermen and 15 starters for the upcoming season. The Nittany Lions open the season September 4, hosting Akron in Beaver Stadium at 3:30 p.m.