Marty: Michael Mauti and Michael Zordich
My favorite Penn State athlete of the 2010s is a tie between Michael Mauti and Michael Zordich. A lot of men played a role in saving Penn State Football between November 2011 and September 2012, but few had a bigger role than Mauti and Zordich. I still remember getting chills and being ready to run through a wall after their famous speech after the NCAA sanctions were dished out. Few men ever loved or cared more about Penn State Football than those two, and few have done more for the program.
Chris L.: Saquon Barkley
I’m going with the layup here and saying my favorite player was Saquon Barkley. Easily the best football player I’ve ever seen play, and could legitimately be the best to ever don the blue and white. You held your breath on every play, knowing he was a danger to score from anywhere on the field. The long touchdown against USC in the Rose Bowl is perhaps the best football play I’ve ever witnessed.
Tim: Talor Battle
As one of the hoops editors, I’d be remiss if I didn’t go with Talor Battle. His brashness, athleticism, and pure shooting ability made him a force to be reckoned with in the Big Ten, as he could literally hit shots from anywhere, even from the nose of the Nittany Lion logo near mid-court. I will always fondly remember his coast-to-coast game-winning layup against Illinois where he managed to dribble around all five Illini players and hoist a shot that seemingly pinballed forever between the glass and rim, like Adam Sandler’s Masters-clinching putt in Happy Gilmore, before falling through the net with less than a second to go and subsequently storming the court. It’s quite fitting that he finally toppled Jesse Arnelle to become PSU’s all-time leading scorer (granted, Lamar Stevens has a shot at supplanting him).
Patrick: Michael Zordich
Listen, Trace McSorley will be MY QUARTERBACK forever. I would legitimately give up my life for Trace, and I only feel a little bit weird about saying that publicly. However -- there is only one Michael Zordich. I know we joke about fullbacks, but there is something incredible about the position -- the toughness, unselfishness, and savageness that it takes to play the position. Zordich emulated all of that, and his role in keeping this program afloat in 2012 just cements his spot as my favorite Penn State athlete of all-time.
Clay: Zain Retherford.
Not only is Retherford extremely talented, but the Hodge Trophy winner and 3x national champion is the nicest person you could ever meet. It was awesome watching him go out and brutalize people on the mat, win four team titles, and then just be the most down to earth guy. Favorite moment: Bo Nickal pinning Myles Martin. I really, really despise Ohio State and it looked for much of that tournament that the Buckeyes would be national champs and then Bo Nickal comes out and hits Myles Martin with an elevator and pins him to win his second national title and clinch the team championship and it ruled.
Jared: Brandon Bell
Bell committed to Penn State ahead of the 2013 season to be part of the group to bring Penn State back to glory. And boy did he ever. His first appearance as a true freshman in 2013 was for a team that was fighting like hell just to have a winning record. His final game was in the Rose Bowl after helping Penn State win an unexpected Big Ten championship.
My eyes were glued to #11 whenever he was on the field. Watching him make play after play on TV was one thing, but in-person you could really see Bell’s unmatched passion for the game. The guy just never stopped. Between every play, he was dancing around like his body just couldn’t wait for the ball to be snapped again so he could hit someone. He was constantly getting his teammates fired up and making sure no one was about to take a play off on his watch. Bell was an absolute cornerstone of the program as they refused to fade away and became champions once again.