Landon Tengwall showed up at the Penn State practice field by Holuba Hall Wednesday with a big, red bruise on the left side of his face.
Reporters inevitably asked the 6-foot-6, 320-pound offensive lineman what happened, and he wouldn’t tell.
“We don’t talk about injuries,” Tengwall said with a polite smile.
And so it was. Most of the public will never know how Tengwall got that big, red bruise.
If all goes according to plan, however, Tengwall’s ability and impact on Penn State’s offensive line will no longer be a mystery after the 2022 season.
Tengwall, Penn State’s highest-rated recruit in the 2021 class, only saw action in three games last season.
This season, fans who follow Penn State and even some on the outside expect him to start and become a force.
To his credit, Tengwall doesn’t worry about what anybody writes about him, good or bad.
“I’d say it doesn’t really affect me,” Tengwall told reporters at Penn State’s second-year player availability early Wednesday afternoon. “I really don’t like to read my own stuff or anything. But I really don’t let anything affect me in the media, whether it’d be negative or positive.”
That’s a good attitude, and Tengwall has had the right attitude over the past two seasons.
His senior season at Our Lady of Good Counsel High School in Olney, Maryland, was wiped out due to COVID-19.
In his first year at Penn State, Tengwall had to watch on the sidelines until the team’s second-to-last regular-season game.
It would be understandable for Tengwall to be frustrated at going nearly two full years without playing in a football game, and perhaps he was to some extent.
Mainly, though, Tengwall said he kept a positive attitude and trusted the judgment of his head coach, James Franklin, and his offensive line coach, Phil Trautwein.
“I just wanted to play my role,” Tengwall said. “I just trusted coach (Trautwein) and coach Franklin. Those guys are going to do what’s best for the team. Obviously, everybody just wants to play, but like I said, I’m just here to play my role and do whatever I can so we can win a Big Ten championship.”
Even with spending most of the season on the bench, Tengwall loved Year 1 in Happy Valley.
“It was awesome,” he said. “Obviously, I got here early. It was awesome to early enroll. I think I got a lot of great experience, so that was big-time for me. Overall, I had a fantastic year. I really love it here.”
Tengwall played offensive tackle in high school, and in Penn State’s last two regular-season games– against Rutgers and Michigan State– he stayed at tackle.
In between the end of the regular season and Penn State’s Outback Bowl appearance against Arkansas, however, Tengwall moved to guard and is expected to play there in 2022.
He said he had no issue with the move.
“I had the whole bowl prep to kind of start to get used to guard,” Tengwall said, “because before that, I really never played guard… so it was a pretty smooth transition.”
Although Tengwall played high school football at a high level in Maryland, playing at Penn State is a different animal. For Tengwall, nothing fully prepares an offensive lineman to go from high school to the highest level of college football.
“Everybody’s just big,” he said. “You see these high school players, and they’re just mauling kids. I played in a pretty good division in high school, a pretty good league. But nothing gets you ready.”
“The physicality is a big transition. I think that’s why offensive line is up there with quarterbacks as far as the hardest thing from high school to college to transition. But I feel like I’ve handled it pretty well.”
Tengwall’s always had the strength of a rhino and continues to get stronger. He said he’s worked on improving his footwork and quickness, which are also essential for a lineman to have.
Helping Tengwall along the way is Trautwein. “Coach Traut” didn’t play a significant role in recruiting Tengwall. Trautwein came to Penn State in January of 2020, and Tengwall committed in late March.
Over Tengwall’s time at Penn State, however, the bond between lineman and line coach has strengthened.
“I’m over his house all the time,” Tengwall said. “We’ll work drills together. He’s the type of coach, you know, if I hit him up and say I want to work drills in Holuba (Hall) in 20 minutes, he’d be here. So he’s been fantastic.”
Mickey Mantle once said, “it’s unbelievable how much you don’t know about the game you’ve been playing all your life.”
That quote pertained to baseball, but when Tengwall started at Penn State, that quote probably became relatable to him as a football player.
“Looking back, it’s honestly shocking how much really you don’t learn in high school,” Tengwall said. “A lot of guys don’t even know how to draw up a defense, even know how to draw on the board. So I think it’s actually really shocking how much you learn in college.”
If all goes according to plan, Tengwall will become a regular starting offensive lineman for the first time since 2019.
He feels he’s ready for it.
“I’m excited to play ball,” he said.