Farrell shined for Nittany Lions
Many naysayers were projecting a season of gloom and doom for the Penn State football team after the drastic NCAA sanctions were handed down last summer.
Former Shady Side Academy star Mike Farrell and his Nittany Lions teammates saw to it that there would be no dramatic collapse at Happy Valley.
Farrell, a senior offensive linemen, was confident that his final year at PSU would be a good one.
I believed we would have a good season and so did my teammates,” Farrell said. “Before the season started, we were watching ESPN and a lot of so-called experts were saying that we'd be lucky to win two or three games. We were blown away. We knew that wouldn't happen. Even after we started out 0-2, we knew we'd bounce back.”
The Nittany Lions did bounce back — to the tune of an 8-4 record.
Though there have been many memorable moments during Farrell's career at PSU, the events leading up to this season and the way that the team handled the adversity will remain foremost in Farrell's memories.
“Going to the Rose Bowl and winning the Big 10 when I was a freshman were great moments but everything else pales compared to what we endured and overcame this year,” Farrell said. “It was a different world for us.”
Farrell said the experience of his final game at Penn State will be hard to top.
“It was Senior Day and it was very emotional,” he said. “The way we won it typified what Penn State football is about. The five-game winning streak and the come-from-behind win against Northwestern made this season memorable in a positive way.”
When the PSU players were given the option to transfer by the NCAA, it fell on deaf ears in Farrell's case.
“At no point was I even remotely interested in transferring,” he said. “Most of the other seniors felt the same way.
“We decided that we would be remembered as the players that kept the program together. Coach (Bill) O'Brien was instrumental in keeping everything together. He kept us focused.”
Along with dealing with the NCAA smackdown, Farrell and his teammates had to adjust to a new coaching staff.
“The biggest difference between coach (Joe) Paterno and coach O'Brien was obviously the difference in age,” Farrell said. “Coach O'Brien was much more hands-on. He has a lot of energy and he is very motivational. That filtered down to the team.”
Farrell said O'Brien knew he was walking into a tough situation and he had a great plan in place.
“What he and his staff accomplished was unbelievable,” Farrell said. “Even with the recruiting sanctions, he'll keep PSU football at the high level that everybody is used to. He's out recruiting now and what those potential recruits will see is a down-to-earth guy who is easy to talk to.”
Farrell, who majored in secondary education, will be graduating at the end of the month. He would not mind getting a shot at professional football before he embarks on his life career.
“I think I've gotten noticed this year,” he said. “I started every game and I made honorable mention on the All Big 10 team. I will keep training in case I get a call for pro tryouts.”
Marty Stewart is a sports editor for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 412-782-2123 or firstname.lastname@example.org.