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Giger: The best thing I heard on PSU’s Pro Day

Photo by Penn State Athletics: Shaka Toney

Much of the news from Penn State’s Pro Day last week centered, of course, around the terrific performances by Micah Parsons and Jayson Oweh. But the following 91-second clip from defensive end Shaka Toney stood out to me the most.

Toney was asked about his relationship with former PSU defensive line coach Sean Spencer, who’s now with the New York Giants. And what the Nittany Lion player says serves as a good reminder of just how much personal relationships, not just the sports stuff, are a huge part of college athletics.

This is good stuff in the video clip below. Toney talks about not having a father and how Spencer is “the closest thing I had to a dad,” plus how Spencer taught him things such as how to talk to people, how to tie a tie and even how to shave.

“He really taught me so much. I’m eternally grateful,” Toney said.

“I love Coach Spence.”


College coaches and assistant coaches have long served as role models for young athletes, and that’s often especially true for those who come from single-parent homes.

Many young athletes commit to a college in large part because of either the head coach or an assistant coach who recruits them. Sure, they like the school, but they build personal bonds, and that becomes the biggest factor in many decisions.

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Just look at what happened with new Penn State basketball coach Micah Shrewsberry. He recruited 4-star guard Jameel Brown to Purdue, and when Shrewsberry left, Brown wasted little time decommitting. He could end up coming to Penn State, again, because of the personal relationship he’s already built with Shrewsberry.

What’s sad about college sports is that coaches come and go so frequently that we often don’t even think about what impact that can have on the players they leave behind.

It sounds as if Toney and Spencer still have a strong bond, and you hope that’s the case when a lot of coaches leave a given school.

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Cory Giger is a 15-year veteran of the Penn State beat and a journalist with 28 years of experience. He has won more than 100 state and national journalism awards during his career, plus he's a voter for the Heisman Trophy in football and Wooden Award in basketball.

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