Tuesday’s rally at dawn was part of an effort by agonized fans to back the players who have become bright spots in troubling times.
A pep band played while fans wearing blue-and-white attire lined the sidewalks to slap high-fives and shake hands with Nittany Lions as they snaked their way to their workouts. The scene resembled the team entrance to home games at Beaver Stadium on fall Saturdays.
Inspirational quotes from Winston Churchill, Thomas Paine and Vince Lombardi were posted in the windows of the building. “It isn’t whether you get knocked down. It’s whether you get back up,” read one quote attributed to Lombardi, the Hall of Fame NFL coach.
“It was so cool. I couldn’t believe how loud it was,” Zordich said about Tuesday’s turnout. “This just goes to show why we’re still here and why we’re going to fight this thing through.”
Scandal has engulfed the program since November, when Sandusky was arrested.
The retired defensive coordinator is in jail awaiting sentencing after being convicted in June of 45 criminal counts of sexually abusing young boys. Some of the assaults took place in the football building.
Former FBI director Louis Freeh on July 12 released results of his investigation for Penn State and said that late coach Joe Paterno and three school officials concealed allegations against Sandusky, conclusions that Paterno’s family and the officials have vehemently denied.
The coach’s widow, Sue Paterno, was seen inside the football building early during the rally, but she did not speak to fans or media.
Penn State gave Freeh’s findings to the NCAA, which levied the landmark sanctions on July 23 that have some players at least considering a transfer.
O'Brien has also called a team meeting for Tuesday evening, after which Conlin and more than 260 other former Penn State players are expected to meet with the current Nittany Lions in another show of support.
“This team is going to go down in history for sticking with the school and showing that loyalty,” said former player and current school trustee Adam Taliaferro as vocal fans cheered over the din of rock music blaring from speakers.
“I’ve told everyone it’s a personal decision, but I want all the players who are thinking about leaving to think about what you have here,” Taliaferro said. “You’re not going to have any other fans like this in the whole world.”
Most downtown businesses are displaying “Proud to Support Penn State Football” signs on windows. Some stores have started selling shirts with the slogan “Billieve,” playing off of O'Brien’s first name.
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