Senior Day at Beaver Stadium– and everywhere else, for that matter– used to be cut and dry.
Players who had been with Penn State’s football program for four years– in some cases, five, in rare cases, six– would be honored before the season’s last home game at Beaver Stadium.
The public address announcer would say their names, introduce who they were walking with– Mom, Dad or any other significant people in their lives– and more than 100,000 people would cheer, or at least politely applaud.
Now that COVID-19 has granted pandemic-era athletes an extra year of college eligibility if they want it, Senior Day is still special, but it’s different.
So when players such as receiver Cam Sullivan-Brown– who has been at Penn State for five years and is considering coming back for a sixth– are honored before Penn State’s last home game against Rutgers Saturday, they’ll walk out before the game not yet sure if this will be the last time.
“I wouldn’t say it’s a strange week,” Sullivan-Brown said. “I mean, with the extra year for me, personally, I’m going to wait until after the season to talk about it with Coach (James Franklin.) So, I don’t think it’s typically strange. We’re just taking it day-by-day.”
Fifth-year senior Jaquan Brisker was already honored for Senior Day last season before an empty Beaver Stadium against Michigan State. Now, after deciding to use his extra year, he knows that this is finally it.
“It’s going to mean a lot, having fans there, watching me come out, watching me play for the last time,” Brisker said. “Just getting to take it all in, just seeing the fans just all around. Just knowing that this is my last game in Beaver Stadium.”
Brisker has taken advantage of his extra year, becoming one of college every time’s best safety’s and projected by some to be selected in the first round of next year’s NFL draft. Brisker wants to be remembered as one of the best to wear a Penn State uniform.
“What I gave to the program,” he said. “What I did everytime I stepped on the field. Just gave it my all… I just hope that, in their eyes, I was one of the best defensive players to walk through here.”
For Penn State’s seniors who know they won’t be coming back, the reality is setting in that all good things must come to an end.
“It’s been quite a journey,” Jesse Luketa, a traditional fourth-year senior said. “It’s gone by fast, honestly. This past week has just been so surreal for me, just finally looking back on my journey and saying, ‘wow, four years flew by just like that.’ It’s been a great experience, my time at Penn State.”