BSD: You're doing this as part of DirecTV's new package offerings. It's NFL Sunday Ticket, but they have added features. Can you talk a little bit more about that?
There's two. There's obviously the extension of the NFL Sunday Ticket, and the added streaming. The whole thought process behind DirecTV doing this was based upon people maybe not having access to TV or a satellite signal, things like that. So they came up with a way for fans to stream it, and they extended it and turned it into NFLSundayTicket.tv. That's where you can go, and I think it's pretty cool because now everybody is using their mobile device a ton more than anything that they use in the course of the day. That extends into the college area as well, and it's offered to college kids at four-year programs, to be able to get it at an affordable monthly price as well, and that's NFLSundayTicket.tvu (URL: NFLSundayTicket.tv/students). I think it's pretty awesome, obviously, having so much to do, you know, I'm a parent, so I have kids that are playing sports or doing certain things. Because I work for the NFL Network, I have to see what's going on with the games, so to have that type of access, even though I have the regular NFL Sunday Ticket Package, it still makes a ton of sense for me because I'm not always able to be sitting in front of my TV because of the activities my children are a part of.
Off the top of your head, do you know which devices the service will be available on?
For my knowledge, NFLSundayTicket.tv works on pretty much every device that I've heard of (iPads, iPhones, Android devices, video game consoles, etc.).
Moving on, let's ask the most important question first: what's your favorite memory of playing under Joe Paterno?
My favorite memory of Joe Paterno... I would be cheating any other memory that I had of him if I were to break it down to one, but I'd probably would say my most memorable moment was when I brought my children back to Penn State. Some guys have been around long enough where their children played for Joe, but I wasn't fortunate enough for that. But I did have the opportunity for my children to actually be on the field and I have a picture of Joe, playing around with him, and basically saying to my kids "watch out" because the team was on the field practicing. More than any playing memory, just being a father and seeing my children out there on the field and being able to capture it in a photo, I thought it was pretty, pretty amazing for me, probably the most amazing moment.
Awesome. I actually got to meet Joe at the 2011 Big Ten Kickoff Luncheon, and it was a pretty good experience. At that point he was a bit guarded so I didn't meet him for a very long time, but it was still an amazing experience meeting him for the ten seconds that I did. Next question: Do you have a favorite Penn State tradition?
Well, I heard Bill O'Brien ruined it. But, one of my favorite traditions was one we actually started when we moved into the new building, which was not to walk on the S. Obviously the bus ride over and different things like that, but looking at something we were actually able to be a part of, starting and creating a tradition where you respected the S in the center of the locker room. It was something we took a great deal of pride in. It was something to be very happy about, very prideful about it. I hear Franklin is doing a lot of great things with the kids, maybe they'll see this in the interview and they'll think about guys like Brandon Short and Courtney Brown and David Macklin and Matt Morrison and Rashard Casey and Larry Johnson and Eric McCoo, all the guys that were there when we were there and started that type of tradition.
Franklin did bring back the tradition of no names on the jerseys, maybe he'll bring this one back too.
Yeah, that'd be nice.
Next question: How would you say recruiting has changed from back when you were a high school student to now, having been a part of Betiku's experience?
Well the access has changed. The access and the exposure has changed. This is always going to be something that an old timer says, because I recall old timers saying that when I was coming out of high school. If guys like myself had the type of access that players have today, who knows what that would look like. With social media and all these different programs that are in place to be able to give exposure to the guys that are being recruited so heavily, it certainly serves as a vehicle for much younger guys to actually go and garner that much attention as college guys, even pro guys. So it's changed in the sense that coaches now have to figure out, you know, you have to go fish where the fish are. And that's all social media, so the old school guys have to get used to using technology and and being a little bit more up to speed on where current technology is just to able to have an opportunity to get these guys to come to their program, or even just take a visit. I think that's probably the biggest challenge, certainly the biggest change. Social media, that platform has changed the world as we know it, so it's definitely changed the exposure of high school kids. You have superstar kids, so you have to have a coach with superstar qualities, which I think we have in James Franklin, or you have to have a guy who actually has a great recruiting staff that can really grab the attention of the type of guys who you want to come help your program out. Otherwise you're just losing to the major power programs that are out there right now.
As a follow-up question, do you think this is more beneficial for kids, to have the extra exposure?
It's just reality. I think it can be beneficial, just like it could be destructive. It depends on what type of family the kid comes from and what type of person the kid is, how responsible they are. When you talk about social media, it could be the devil, or it could be amazing. And so many times you see so many people come up short because they're thoughtless on what they do on social media. So, it's very important that if you're going to utilize it, you have to utilize it correctly. So yes, it can be a powerful tool for what it is that you're doing, but it also can be a stumbling block and it can be a setback of sorts if you're not careful in how you conduct yourself on social media. Sometimes guys have to understand that they're not rap stars or singers or actors. The bottom line is if you're a football player, build your brand, grow your brand, but be very responsible over your brand while doing so.
We've seen examples on both sides, with social media being both beneficial and detrimental very recently, so definitely some good points there. The next question is: You played with Brandon Short both in the NFL and at Penn State. Do you still keep in touch with him?
Yes, yes I do. I just spoke to him not too long ago. He lives overseas now, he's been doing very well in finance, sales. He was in Dubai for a while. I think he's now made a transition into Europe. Brandon is one of my heroes. He's a brother. He's someone that I love dearly and and have remained close with through the years. Courtney [Brown] and I keep up as well. We text message and stuff like that. A lot of the guys, we take pride in keeping up with one another, whether it's through Facebook or through text message or even calling on the phone. So yeah, I speak to Brandon quite a bit.
This past December, the Big Ten Network took a viewer online voting poll that named you as a member of the PSU Mount Rushmore along with Jack Ham, Shane Conlan, and John Cappelletti. Who are some of your favorite all-time football players?
Overall, Greg Lloyd is my favorite football player of all time. If you're talking about Penn State, one just walked right in front of me. I would definitely Mike Robinson in there because he was a part of the resurgence of Penn State, and maybe an underrated leader based on some of the things that were surrounding that team. They had Paul Posluszny, which I think he definitely is there. If I had a Mount Rushmore, it definitely wouldn't be 5 heads, it would definitely be more players in there, just because of what they represented. Jack Ham would definitely be there. Guys like Franco Harris, you mentioned Cappelleti, but I also love DJ Dozier. I think of guys like Ray Isom, Kim Herring, Ki-Jana Carter, Kerry Collins, what about Matt Millen, and the guys that blocked for Ki-Jana, like Jon Witman, who just ripped heads, they did the dirty work for Penn State. Then you think about guys like Robinson, who is now a hall of famer in the National Football Hall of Fame... There's just so many great players that came through, and more importantly, I think great men that were a part of that Penn State program, so if I had to choose, it would probably be a mural, if it were up to me.
That would have been a hard question for anyone, given our lengthy history and how many great players we've had. As a follow-up question, where would you rate yourself among the great linebackers at Penn State?
I would never dare to rate myself with them because I think we all had different qualities. We all had different strengths that we brought to the table. I named some guys, and we always name the ones with the recency effect, so guys like me, Poz, Connor, Sean Lee come up, but when you think about Linebacker U I think of guys like Phil Yeboah-Kodie, Aaron Collins, Gelzheiser, Filardi, there are guys that don't get mentioned when you mention the greats that have played for our teams. It gets lost, so for me, I think of guys like Trey Bauer, and he was there with Shane Conlan. A lot of times, we've had really strong linebacking corps, and a lot of times, even with me and Brandon and Mac, I got a lot of the attention and fanfare, but those were two fine linebackers, and some would maybe debate that they were better than me as football players. It would be a legitimate debate. Joe would always say [Joe impression] "best in the country, I don't know that he's the best on the team!" That would be what Joe would say, and as an old man today, I would probably concur with what it was that he was saying. To try to rate myself with the greatest in the history of all time at Penn State, I wouldn't feel comfortable doing it.
Sounds good! I will apologize for the next question in advance, as you've probably heard it many times. Are there any plans to go into coaching full time in the future?
You never know. I never say never, I love dealing with young people, I love coaching, I love mentoring. There's something about having the opportunity and the ability to represent a foundation and an influence on bright young men. I would never say never, but I also understand that coaching is a very turbulent industry. Probably the reason why I've never ventured off into coaching is for one, I don't financially need to do anything that would basically force me to have to pick up and move at the drop of a game. Some say "drop of a hat," I say "drop of a game." You lose a game, and that may be the end of your job. Although I would certainly entertain it. If I ever got into coaching, I would probably start off with coaching a youth league team, maybe running a youth league organization, maybe work my way up, possibly coaching at the high school level and seeing how I feel about it from there. There's a lot of standing, there's a lot of meetings, there's a lot that goes into it. I can't even imagine the way Joe's body felt, him and guys that coach as long as him, like Bobby Bowden, and coach Robinson and Grambling.
I think about some of the little things, the way I was programmed is to think about the small details that would go into it. It's not so much getting out there and coaching the kids up or being around them and being an influence. It's more about how would my body even react to standing up and running around and demonstrating, and then you're meeting countless amounts of hours to do game planning and break film on your own team and the opponent. It's such a tedious job, and I'm really in a lot of ways a perfectionist in what I try to do with everything that I do that it would probably be tough on me to really get into coaching. But like I said, never say never. I may get to a place in life where my kids may get a little older, and I may have the itch. There's more I would enjoy about coaching than I wouldn't enjoy. So you never know.
And you never know, if I ever got the chance to coach linebackers at Linebacker U, that may be an offer I can't refuse. We'll see.
So a few lighthearted questions, now that the "tough ones" are out of the way: Let's say you're locked in a room with Dan Nystrom for 5 minutes. How do you react?
With who? You gotta put me up on who that is.
Dan Nystrom, the Minnesota Kicker from 1999.
Ah Geez, no wonder I don't remember him. Man, it's so far gone that if we were locked in a room, I'd probably whoop his tail! I'd probably whoop his tail and apologize. Nah I'm messing with you. You know what, in reality he didn't win the game. He kicked the game-winning field goal. Minnesota outlasted us. We had that game in the bag. I think that game was as much a game of fate as the ones we had against Drew Brees and Purdue when we were able to hold out against them and hold on to a victory or against Pitt earlier into the year or even against Miami in the improbable comeback to beat them in the Orange Bowl. It was their day, and it wasn't ours. If I were in a room with him, I would probably ask him what was he thinking. You know, I got a finger on that ball, I think it was on Sports Illustrated or something. Every once in a while it's a stinger, it's a sting to have to think that one game actually derail an entire season. Because after that, I think we were so heartbroken, and take nothing away from Michigan or Michigan State but, I mean, we were the better team, and maybe even the best team in the country that year, hands down, bar none. But, we let two games get away from us after Minnesota, and went on a 3-game skid.
There was a lot of promise for that team that didn't come to fruition. It is what it is. I don't have any regrets, and obviously there was a play in that game where I had Thomas Hamner man to man, and Cockerham rolled out right and I broke my coverage. I hate that I did it, and sometimes that's the one memory that runs through my head. "If I had stayed with Hamner, then he doesn't get the catch and the TD, and maybe that's the difference in the game." I think they only won by like a point or something. You just run back every play through the course of the game. Look, I made like 8 plays, like 8 big plays. I made a sack on the game-winning drive that they had, which pushed them out of FG range. It was like 4th and forever for them to get a first down, and they get a hail mary and get in FG range. But sometimes you just ask yourself "is there something more that you could have done during that time," and obviously it is what it is, it's in the books. I honestly would just have wanted to know what he was thinking before the ball was snapped.
This one comes from my friend, who's actually spotted you at The Griddle a few times. What do you think of the Pancakes at there?
I love the pancakes at The Griddle and that's why I go there quite a bit. They're like The Diner up in State College. Although I have not had a grilled sticky like the ones at Penn State, I don't know if that's still a big thing there, but I love getting "Golden Tickets," which is the name of the pancakes with strawberries in it, or a Banana Anna, with strawberries in it. One of those two is money at The Griddle.
Last, but not least, what is your take on Penn State in 2015, and if you had to predict a record, what would it be?
It's hard to say. It's a lot of new faces, I'll have to wait and see. But we have Hackenberg. In Hackenberg we trust, at least I trust. I know he had a little bit of a tough outing last year, but hopefully he's got enough playmakers in place now where he can sling the ball. Hopefully the offense fits what his strong skillsets are. He's a classic pocket passer. It would be a shame to let him get away. I think very highly of him. Hopefully we can get as much out of him as the NFL will (if he goes to a good team in the NFL). Hopefully we'll get to see what that looks like at Penn State vs having to wait for him to get to the Pros to actually see what his skillset is.
Having Hackenberg, and an excellent secondary, Lucas is a stud. He's a leader. I'm looking forward to watching him play. And then Marcus Allen is a freak of nature. And he loves to thump! I love the fact that he's a thumper. I've known Marcus and have seen him play since he was in high school. I know his family. He comes from the same background that I do, that hard-nosed, Pittsburgh thumper-style football. It's going to be fun to watch the secondary. I also hear good things about the linebacking corps. I hear good things about a lot of the skill positions. I'm going to take a wait and see approach, but from what I hear, we got a lot of guys that can really start putting the bite back into Penn State football.
Thank you again to LaVar Arrington for agreeing to the interview, and DirecTV for making it happen. Make sure to tune in to NFL AM and 106.7 The Fan in DC to listen to LaVar's takes.