John Cappalletti v Todd Kulka
John Cappalletti, RB (1970 - 1973)
Perhaps the best known Penn State player of all time, John Cappelletti was a cornerstone of the undefeated 1973 football team and won the only Heisman Trophy in Penn State’s history. Apart from his football feats, Cappelletti’s off the field compassion and caring for his little brother, Joey, who was battling leukemia, grabbed the heart of America. His Heisman Trophy acceptance speech, during which he thanked and dedicated the award to Joey, was the inspiration for the film “Something for Joey.”
Todd Kulka, Linebacker (1991 - 1994)
A little less renown is, , Todd Kulka. Kulka followed a pretty natural formula of football legacy, State High grad & post-grad job with the team - He was named Coordinator of Football Academic Support Services.
Mike Reid v Kyle Brady
Mike Reid, DT (1966-1969)
Mike Reid was a standout on a team of stars and his play was the stuff of legends. My father used to tell stories of Reid’s dominance, and I think he sometimes must have borrowed some tales from Paul Bunyan and Hercules. Reid enjoyed great success in his football career, but his true calling was music. A composer and musician, Reid has collected as many awards in his music career as he did in football, writing 12 number one country hits and 7 musicals, winning a Grammy, and being named to the Nashville Songwriters Hall of Fame.
Kyle Brady, TE (1991 - 1994)
All great players are called “clutch” at some point in their career - but with Kyle Brady, it was a weekly occurrence. Brady’s size, smarts and strength (hands) made him a favorite of quarterback, Kerry Collins, and a habitual “stick mover” during the 1994 season. A consensus All-American in 1994, Brady was drafted by the New York Jets in the first round (9th) of the 1995 NFL draft. He enjoyed a long, and productive career in the NFL, retiring in 2008.
Jay Paterno v Bryan Scott
Jay Paterno, Quarterback (1987-1990), Assistant Coach
Flash back before November 2011 and I would not have been accused of being a fan of Jay. I complained about his over coaching of quarterbacks and the nepotism of his having his job. Then something changed. He stood up for Penn State when others left us. He spoke about the good that has been at our University when it wasn’t socially acceptable – let alone popular. Do I think he was the greatest quarterback coach ever – nope. Do I think he has spoken for us when we weren’t ready to – yes. And for that he’s earned a spot on our bracket.
Bryan Scott, Linebacker, (1999 - 2002)
Bryan was a stand out defensive player for the Nittany Lions from 1999-2003 racking up 202 tackles and five interceptions. While his feats on the field are impressive, he is also a talented musician, signing and playing the piano, drums, and saxophone. In fact, he has founded his own foundation, Pick your Passion Foundation for the Arts, which funds field trips to music and art venues around Buffalo. It is his charity work that has made him the 2012 Bills nominee for the Walter Payton Man of the Year.
Kenny Jackson v Rosie Grier
Kenny Jackson, WR (1980-1983), Assistant Coach
In full disclosure, Kenny Jackson was my first favorite, favorite football player. He was everything you wanted in a favorite player, talented, speedy and a winning smile. While his most remembered play was probably made during his sophomore season game against Dan Marino and the #1 pitt panthers, he was a pivotal part of the 1982 National Championship winning offense and named All-American in both 1982 and 1983. Kenny returned to the team to coach receivers from 1993 - 2000, where he guided the likes of Bobby Engram and Joe Jurevicius.
Rosie Grier, DL (1951 - 1955)
Rosie Grier was a great football player who became a cultural icon. A 4 year starter for Coach Engle, Grier was also a standout athlete for the track team, winning All American honors for shot put in 1954 & 1955. Rosie’s talents extended beyond the playing field to the worlds of film, music, prayer and fiber arts. Also a political enthusiast, Rosie was a staunch supporter of Senator Robert F Kennedy’s 1968 bid for the Democratic nomination; and is notoriously known as the man who disabled Sirhan Sirhan by breaking his arm.
Michael Zordich (the younger), FB (2008 - 2012)
The son of a Penn State great, Michael Zordich was recruited as linebacker out of the storied Cardinal Mooney High School in Youngstown, OH. Michael, the younger, had some serious discipline lapses early on - and spent a great deal of time in the proverbial doghouse. Eventually switching to fullback, Zordich matured into a tenacious and yet ferocious aspect of the Lions’ offense. Far and beyond that, Zordich matured into a true leader of the Penn State team, as evidenced by how he rallied his fellow players in the wake of July 2012, and served as the unofficial spokesperson for the team, school and an entire fandom.
Tom Bradley, CB (1975-1978), Assistant Coach, Head Coach
Tom “Scrap” Bradley is the penultimate Penn Stater. A player, a coach, a fan for the team, his enthusiasm for Penn State was a hallmark of the team for over 30 years. Bradley joined the team as an undersized d-back that worked harder than anyone and “scrapped” on every play; he left Penn State known for his oversized loyalty, drive and heart.
Deon Butler, WR, (2004-2008)
Deon Butler joined the team as a walk-on defensive back - but quickly moved to the offensive side of the ball for his freshman (eligibility) season, to join the corps of young receivers that reignited the Penn State team in 2005 and the program in general. Butler became a clutch receiver, prompting some (who will remain nameless) in the stands to continuously shout “throw the ball to Butler!!” He grew to be a key part of the offensive, on the field, in the end zone and in the locker room.
Brett Conway, K (1993 - 1996)
A 4 year kicker, Conway missed only one PAT his entire career (141 out of 142), and kicking 191 of them in a row; adding in his 45 field goals, he scored a total 276 points for the Lions. Interestingly, his one PAT miss came in 1994 - when he scored 62 of that impressive total of points - as much a testament to that amazing offense as is the fact that he only had 12 field goal attempts that season (made 10). Conway was picked by the Green Bay Packers in the 3rd round of the 1997 NFL draft (pretty darn respectable for a kicker), he would spend time with 6 more professional teams (including a season in the CFL) before retiring after 2005.
Dan Connor, Linebacker (2004 - 2007)
Connor was expected to seamlessly extend the long line of extraordinary linebackers - and he eventually did - after a couple off-field stumbles (Hello? Do you have Jay Paterno in a can?). Connor possessed a linebacker 6th sense - seeming to know where the play was going to develop before the offense even lined-up. A 2 time All-American, Connor did extend the tradition of PSU’s defensive dominance by winning the 2007 Bednarik Award (PSU’s 3rd in a row). Connor was drafted in the 3rd Round of the 2008 NFL draft and currently plays for the Dallas Cowboys.
Lenny Moore, RB (1952 - 1955)
Lenny. Lenny. Moore. Moore. Moore! A true Penn State legend, Moore played halfback for the Lions. He was drafted by the Baltimore Colts in the first round of the 1956 NFL draft, going All-Pro and winning Rookie of the Year honors in his debut season. In 1975 he was elected to the Pro Football Hall of Fame.
Ki-Jana Carter, RB (1992-1994)
Ah, Ki-Jana, I’ve loved you since my days at Penn State. I could watch you carry the ball all day. You are still one of the top ten rushers at Penn State with 2,829 yards and as the co-MVP of the 1995 Rose Bowl you helped lead Penn State to yet another un-defeated season (yet we were robbed of the National Champion title…). At the beginning of the 1996 NFL season I was filled with anticipation for your rookie season. It was cut short after a knee injury in the preseason and though you came back and played a few years in the early 2000s I will always wonder what could have been…
Cue the Eagles tune ‘Desperado’ and sing along with me… “Gasparato, why don’t you come to your senses…break through those defenses and score some points…’ If you sat near me during the 2004 season you heard me sing that more than once. And it is for Mike that I proudly wear number 32.