Penn State senior class making the most of opportunities
UNIVERSITY PARK -- On Saturday, Beaver Stadium will be striped out for the final home game of the 2017 season. It will also be the final home game for 23 seniors.
"It's not enough time. Because right when you start to get to know each other on a significant level, they're leaving and they're moving on. So it's hard," head coach James Franklin said of the emotions surrounding Senior Day.
This is James Franklin's first senior class of his own recruits, and it's a class that has stuck through much adversity to lead the program back to major milestones. But outside of winning records, a Big Ten Championship and a Rose Bowl berth, its collegiate journey has been much more, especially for tight end turned linebacker, Brandon Smith, a senior backup who is always ready for his shot to start.
"I think last year, when I got to play in the Temple game, that was the first time I saw real playing time at linebacker. It was just kind of like a relief that I wasn't crazy, that I actually could go out on the field and do well. I was just happy with that opportunity," Smith said.
While one senior has fought for a spot, another has fought to meet high expectations surrounding him since his freshman year. Senior tight end Mike Gesicki hasn't had the easiest of rides but has also found confidence throughout the process.
"How I grew and developed and become the player I am -- I owe a lot of credit to my coaches, my teammates, and my family and friends for sticking with me and fighting out the other side. Being able to look back at my Penn State career, I am proud of everything I've gone through," Gesicki said.
Smith and Gesicki both have shared their messages of making the most of every opportunity with their teammates. It's a crucial motto after two straight losses this season.
"But every great team has to deal with adversity. That was our time, something we had to learn from and be able to bounce back from, which we were able to do last week, to be able to finish this season off strong," Gesicki said.
Penn State's seniors will look to keep their unblemished home record for the past two seasons alive on Saturday as they face Nebraska for the first time. And this could possibly be the last home game for running back Saquon Barkley, who has yet to announce if he will forgo his senior year for the NFL draft.