Olu Fashanu is coming back to Penn State, and that makes Penn State fans happy for a lot of reasons.
A 2023 team that already has a lot of promise will not have one of college football’s best offensive linemen back in the fold, and that will make a good team a lot better.
Fashanu has a chance to go down as one of Penn State’s best offensive linemen ever, but his football playing ability might not even be the most impressive front he has.
People tend to used the phrase “built different” when referring to themselves and others. Although every human being is “built different,” I think the phrase is overused. Sometimes, people just aren’t as good at what they do as they think they are, and neither are their friends. But to say Fashanu is “built different” would be an understatement understatement bigger than Fashanu’s 6-foot-6, 308-pound frame.
He’s “built different” on the football field. That’s how he became a projected first-round pick during his first season as a college football starter. He’s also “built different” in the classroom.
That’s how he’s in contention for the William V. Campbell Trophy (the “Academic Heisman”) according to coach James Franklin, who mentioned it during one of his weekly Tuesday press conferences this fall. It takes a different breed to be as good as Fashanu is athletically and equally—if not more— dominant academically.
It also takes a different breed to turn down a chance to be a millionaire.
Fashanu surprised most Penn State fans Monday when he announced his intent to return to school for the 2023 season. If Fashanu declared for the NFL Draft, he would have almost certainly been a first-round pick and could have gone in the top 10 or even the top 5. No rational person would have blamed Fashanu for going pro.
But, boy, are Penn State fans glad he didn’t.
What amazing news! https://t.co/v1si88bbaw
— Tyler (@UnionPhan) November 28, 2022
Hell yeah! #WeAre https://t.co/XLSvt1akfr
— Chris Crady (@Crady22) November 28, 2022
Huge for Penn State to have a 1st rounder, and projected top 10, OL come back to help out Allar. Big things in Happy Valley next year. https://t.co/kDPUSnvq0T
— Cal Hauburger (@calhauburger) November 28, 2022
I don’t want to speculate too much about why Fashanu decided to stay at Penn State. But I think part of the reason could be that Fashanu doesn’t have to play professional football to become a millionaire. Knowing that Fashanu is excellent at practically everything he does, would you put it past him to make millions in the business world? I wouldn’t.
Student-athletes like Fashanu don’t come around often. In the history of Penn State football, there might not be a player that better exemplifies what an ideal student-athlete is. That might sound like a hot take. It isn’t.
Penn State’s had 40 first-round draft picks in history. That’s more than most schools, but not a lot. Penn State’s only had one football player win the Academic Heisman. His name is John Urschel.
Like Fashanu, Urschel played on the offensive line. But Urschel was a fifth-round pick, not a first-rounder and certainly not a top 10 or top 5 selection. Urschel played three seasons with the Ravens, started some games, and then retired to pursue a Ph.D. in Math.
Fashanu might not go after a Ph.D. like Urschel and might not become an NFL Hall of Famer like Penn State OL great Mike Munchak, but he might be the closest thing to a combination of both that the school has ever had. Fashanu is a unicorn, and what he’s accomplished at Penn State is more impressive than a lot of fans know. Fashanu’s decision to come back will give fans more time to appreciate him, and those that don’t fully understand how impressive he is should use that time to learn to understand and love it.
For decades, Penn State’s football program has been thought of by many as the epitome of blending winning with academic excellence. There are a lot of players who have exemplified “Success with Honor,” but I’m not sure any have more so than Fashanu.
Yes, Penn State fans should be excited about Fashanu coming back because of how much he’d help the 2023 team. They should be excited about Fashanu blocking for Drew Allar for Allar’s first year as starting QB. They should be excited about him continuing to block for running backs Nick Singleton and Kaytron Allen. They should be excited about Fashanu pairing with a (hopefully) healthy Landon Tengwall on the left side, and for the tackle combination of Fashanu and Drew Shelton, assuming Shelton is starting on the right side next year. They should be excited that a program with three four-star Class of 2023 offensive linemen committed before Fashanu became a star should only get better in recruiting the position.
While they’re excited about all that, they should be excited about Penn State having somebody as well-rounded as Fashanu play for their favorite team. I’m not sure if Penn State’s his likes before, and I’m not sure if will again.