College football players are taught that the games are the focal point. It’s what they do all week, build to a crescendo for Saturday.
When the real world intrudes, it’s difficult to put the distractions in a box, go out on a field and keep score.
But that’s precisely what Penn State’s players plan on doing.
“You have to. I mean, what are we going (to do), come out and lose all of our games because of this?” offensive tackle Chima Okoli said Wednesday. “You know what I mean? At the end of the day, you have to own up as a man and take care of responsibilities and that’s what we’re going to do.”
In the midst of a scandal revolving around a former assistant coach having sex with young boys – and the coverup that followed – Penn State’s players will try to put aside a world of distractions and play a game against Nebraska on Saturday.
Joe Paterno, the Nittany Lions’ coach since 1966, was fired by the board of trustees on Wednesday night.
The players, meanwhile, will do their jobs. That means to play games at home against Nebraska, at Ohio State and at Wisconsin over the next three weekends.
They were left to try to figure it all out while hanging onto some sense of normalcy by following their weekly routine of practice leading up to a game. Although there will not be much normal or routine about anything from now on.
“It is difficult, obviously,” safety Drew Astorino said. “We’d much rather not have to deal with these distractions and just focus on the team and focus on this game. But this is something we have to do.”
He has no worries about his team.
“I think we’re going to be OK on the field,” Astorino said. “I love playing with these players, I trust these players, I care about these players more than I care about anybody right now. I think we’re going to come together as a unit, as a group of guys, as we have done so far throughout a tough week. Saturday, that’s exactly what we’ll need to do and what we’ll be able to do.”