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‘We Couldn’t Miss Coach Dex’s Highlights’: PSU Players Loved Touring CFB Hall of Fame With Coach, Inductee

The Penn State Nittany Lions hold a press conference prior to the 2023 Chick-fil-A Peach Bowl, on Dec. 28, 2023 in Atlanta, Ga. Penn State will face Ole Miss in the NCAA football bowl game on Dec. 30. (Jason Parkhurst via Abell Images for the Chick-fil-A Peach Bowl)

One of the perks of the Peach Bowl being Penn State football’s postseason game in 2023 is that the event takes place in the same city the College Football Hall of Fame is located in. 

Naturally, Penn State got to tour the Hall of Fame Wednesday night. It’s a place most people in the program have ever been.

During the tour, Anthony Poindexter was like everybody else. He walked around and observed the history of the sport he loves being displayed.

But there’s a small difference between Poindexter and the rest of Penn State’s attendees on Wednesday night’s tour. 

Poindexter is a College Football Hall of Famer.

Before launching his coaching career, which has led him to be Penn State’s safeties coach and co-defensive coordinator– a role that will have increased significance for the Peach Bowl due to former DC Manny Diaz departing to become the head coach at Duke– Poindexter was a legend at the University of Virginia, becoming a consensus All-American and winning ACC Defensive Player of the Year in 1998. Poindexter got the “Call to the Hall” in March 2020. Due to COVID-19, didn’t have his induction ceremony until December 2021. 

Because that ceremony took place in Las Vegas, Poindexter couldn’t use that as an opportunity to tour the physical Hall of Fame. 

On Wednesday, he got that chance. Best of all, he got to experience it with the team he loves.

“It’s kind of humbling,” Poindexter told reporters Thursday morning. “I was just telling them in there that what’s special, though, is that I got to do it with the team I’m coaching on.”

As good as Poindexter was as a player, he’s generally not too interested in reminiscing. 

“Most people around me know I really don’t like to talk about my career or talk about my playing days,” he said. “If the kids ask, I’ll tell them. But most of them these days don’t even ask. They’ll just be sitting in their room, and then all of a sudden, somebody will say something, and they’ll be like ‘coach you played?’ I’m like, ‘Well, I used to.'”

Poindexter’s profile at the Hall of Fame features his college highlights. 

Did Penn State’s defensive players take the time to watch those highlights?

“Of course,” defensive end Adisa Isaac said. “We couldn’t miss Coach Dex’s highlights. That’s kind of the main thing we came for. But, yeah, I mean, he’s a hell of a player, we kind of knew that, but it was just good to see it on display. Just give him his flowers, he was a great player, and we have to expect real talent when we see it.”

So what were some things Penn State football’s players took away from “Coach Dex’s” highlight film?

“He liked to come down and hit,” cornerback Daequan Hardy said. “He was kind of a rangy safety. He looked bigger in pads. He looked good out there, I’ll say that.”

Considering the fact that Poindexter coaches the position he had so much success at, it’d be easy for him to try to coach his players to be as much like him as possible. 

Instead, Poindexter strives to do the opposite.

As the great Chris Cornell once said, “To be yourself is all that you can do.”

One of his safeties, KJ Winston, told reporters via Zoom in September that Poindexter encouraging Winston to be himself has been crucial in his development. 

“He said, ‘Be the best you and I’ll be happy.’” Winston said. “He said ‘You play your best football, and that’s what I want out of you, and I don’t want you to be this person or that person.’”

Poindexter attributes this mentality to his time at UVA

“I was fortunate enough when I played at the University of Virginia to have a coach that allowed me to be me,” Poindexter said. “I mean, obviously, the game was a little bit different, but I was 225 pounds, 230 pounds when I played safety, so most people would think of that as a box safety. I played high, I played in the post, I played half-field, and I didn’t do all the techniques like the smaller guys, and coach really, he just let me evolve and be me. When I got into coaching, I said, “that’s the key.” You get talented players, you put them in your system, you teach them what you need to teach them, and let the coverage or the defense work, but we recruited them based on who they were in high school. To get them here and try to make them like me, make them like somebody else, it just isn’t going to work, and I try to give them that freedom.”

For DT D’Von Ellies, Poindexter possesses tremendous humility, and that’s rubbed off on him.

“The great thing about great players is that they never have to talk about themselves,” Ellies said…”When I went into the College Football Hall of fame and I saw his film and how he played, how hard he played and the passion that he played with, I feel like it was really special. So he was definitely a special player.”

One of Poindexter’s safeties, Keaton Ellis, described him as “the real deal.”

“So it was really cool to watch him and how he played, and obviously, I know how he played because we’ve heard stories and I’ve watched some of his clips before,” Ellis said. “But, yeah, he was a real good player. A great player, actually.”

Poindexter isn’t comfortable with his playing career being a focal point.

But it made his players happy, and that’s something he was glad to experience. 

“I’m really not that kind of guy,” he said. “It’s kind of embarrassing to me, you know. But they were putting (the highlights) on. One of the freshmen came up to me and said “Coach, you remember those plays?” And I’m like ‘come on, I can’t remember all that.” But it was a special moment.”

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