We've profiled the big names of Penn State football over the past week as possible choices to grace the cover of "We Are! 2013" and there's no doubt that they are all more than deserving to be the first to meet our future faithful readers' eye when they receive the magazine. But, in my opinion, there's an obvious choice that has gone unnoticed or if he had been, it was not complimented with a full sense of seriousness. This choice had his ups and downs and took his share of bumps and bruises from the Nittany Lion faithful in 2012, but he also put the cherry on top of a great season. This choice was, and is, this Penn State team personified both last year and this upcoming year.
Sam Ficken, with one leg planted and one leg extended under the November lights of Beaver Stadium, should be all up on that glossy cover of "We Are! 2013".
Going into the 2012 season, there was much doubt surrounding the Lions, especially after the sanctions hit and transfers left. Many were predicting that this team would fall flat on their face. Likewise, there were concerns about the kicking game as Sam Ficken was not the proven commodity that Anthony Fera had turned out to be.
For those first two games, Penn State did indeed struggle losing to both Ohio and Virginia and, at least in part, their struggles were tied to Ficken. No one will forget his 1-for-5 performance on field goal attempts, including a miss as time expired as the Nittany Lions fell in Charlottesville by a single point.
But, by the end of the season, both the team and their kicker proved the world wrong. Penn State found their groove heading into the season finale with Wisconsin with a 7-4 record and Ficken had found consistency in his kicking game. Both the team and its kicker had their shining moments in that game, culminating in Kickin' Ficken's 37-yard make (his 10th in a row) in overtime, allowing Beaver Stadium to erupt in a magnitude of cheers that have been described as the loudest the stadium had ever heard. Coach O'Brien celebrated with his "bunch of fuckers" and on that night, Sam Ficken, as his German last name would imply, was the biggest fucker of all.
And now, going into 2013, both the team and Ficken have to prove themselves once again. Penn State heads into year two of sanctions and many expect them to start taking their toll and, in turn, expect a decline in the play from the Nittany Lions this year. And for Ficken, while his streak to end last season was impressive, he'll have to win everyone over again and improve upon his accuracy and leg strength right from the beginning in a season where special teams will have maybe more importance than ever.
The similarities are too pronounced to ignore. The kid and his team following the same path are not a coincidence. And his moment at the end of 2012 was the one that left us impatiently waiting for 2013 to begin.
The choice is obvious.
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