One of the joys of being a fan of college athletics is watching young people come into your program as teenagers and grow into being young men and women. Then we get to follow their careers after their college days and take pride when they become productive members of society and succeed. This is a satisfaction that professional sports fans can never really appreciate. This week is a time for Nittany Lions fans to be proud as one of our own has been rewarded for a career of hard work and dedication. Congratulations to Mike Munchak for being named the head coach for the Tennessee Titans.
For those of you not familiar, Munchak was an offensive lineman for Penn State from 1978-1981. He was a starter in '79 and '81 but missed the 1980 season due to a knee injury. His senior year he was named a second team All-American, and the following spring he was taken by the Houston Oilers with the 8th overall selection in the NFL Draft.
Once in the NFL, Munchak's career truly blossomed. He was selected to the Pro Bowl nine times in his 12 year career, and in 1996 the Oilers retired his No. 63 jersey. The NFL named him to their All-Decade team for the 1980s, and in 2001 he was inducted into the NFL Pro Football Hall of Fame.
Upon retirement he assumed the role of offensive line coach with the franchise which moved to Tennessee and became the Titans in 1997. He has been in that role for 14 years now having sent four of his players to the Pro Bowl in that time.
In his introductory press conference yesterday, Munchak expressed his appreciation for the man that shaped him 30 years ago.
"I can't tell you how excited I am to be the next head coach of the Tennessee Titans," Munchak said at his introductory press conference. "(Joe Paterno) is probably the guy I `ve learned the most from - his discipline, the way he ran the team. He commanded the room and the practice field. He was very hands-on and involved. I'm hoping to instill some of things I learned from him here."
Munchak is the first former player of Joe Paterno to be named head coach in the NFL. He is just the third Penn State player to ever be named an NFL head coach. The previous two were Hinkey Haines with the Staten Island Stapletons in 1931 and Mike Palm with the Cincinnati Reds in 1933. Both of those franchises folded under a year after hiring Penn State guys, so better buy your Tennessee Titans merchandise fast so you have the authentic retro gear a decade from now.