AVALON, N.J. (WHTM) — LaVar Arrington first committed to Penn State in the 1990s and went on to have a legendary college career. Now the College Football Hall of Famer is back in Happy Valley, recommitting to help Penn State’s next generation of players.
Arrington says he looked around the program a couple years ago, and didn’t know who the players were. The Penn State football All-American had lost touch with his alma mater.
“That was a challenge for me to learn who we are and to reconnect and find that value,” Arrington said at Thursday’s season kickoff event in Avalon, New Jersey.
Arrington was one of a handful of Penn State Lettermen who attended the exclusive Lions Legacy Club season kickoff at the Avalon Yacht Club. The event was designed to educate top supporters of the program on NIL (Name, Image & Likeness) opportunities.
“I think we all have to reconnect and find the value of what our institution has and what it holds, and everybody plays a part in that,” Arrington said. “I think that’s why this whole coming together is super important for us, is because we all hold individual power to be able to make this thing better.”
After his NFL career, Arrington has created a rather successful career in media, with shows on FOX Sports Radio and his new network “Up On Game.” He’s using that platform to highlight his alma mater and specifically the efforts Penn State is making in NIL.
“You throw in the transfer portal with NIL [in today’s college football], and NIL is giving people the opportunity to take our kids away from our communities prematurely,” Arrington said at Thursday’s event.
Arrington is referring to the same concept referenced by Penn State Head Coach James Franklin spoke about at Big Ten Media Days this week.
“Some of our current players were offered opportunities [to transfer],” Franklin said on Wednesday at Big Ten Media Days. “I say it because it’s happening all over college [football], where our players after the season were contacted from other programs to transfer and were offered deals.”
Arrington has a problem with that: losing players to other programs because those players aren’t feeling enough support from the Penn State community.
“I don’t know about you, but we’re not a community of losing,” Arrington said to the crowd at Thursday’s event. “We’ve gone through a whole lot and have still come out on top and have still been able to stand strong, stand tall and stand proud. This is one of those moments where we have to rally together and really, really put the story out there and educate one another and everyone around us as to how critical and imperative it is to be able to create the support.”
That cry was echoed by fellow Penn State All-American linebacker Brandon Short. The Penn State Board of Trustees member acknowledged there is hesitation in the Penn State fan base towards NIL, but also said it’s time for everyone to get on board.
“I get [the hesitation] completely,” Short said. “I’m old school. I’m a Joe Paterno guy, hard nosed and get that we don’t pay players. That’s one of the reasons why I came to Penn State [in the 1990s], but the game has evolved. In order to be successful, you have to evolve with the with the game.”
Short was an All-American at Penn State, named most valuable player of the 1998 Citrus Bowl and played seven seasons in the NFL for the New York Giants and Carolina Panthers.
“When I was playing as well, there were issues with safety and concussions,” Short said. “[And now], you have to adapt the way you play. There’s no targeting [in today’s college football]; all I did was target. I was hired to target, frankly. Now, I’m happy that the game has changed and evolved to make it safer and more profitable and make it a better experience for every player.”
Short uses the example about the evolution of safety in college football, to illustrate that the game is changing and the next evolution is NIL and compensation for college athletes. Short says change and evolution are good things.
“When I went to school, I came from an inner city and I was very poor,” Short said. “They sold [No.] 43 jerseys in the stadium. I would see it and I would go after the game with my girlfriend and not be able to take her out to dinner. She would have to take me out to dinner. My family couldn’t afford to eat. So this is tremendously life changing for a lot of the players that are coming here.”
Arrington and Short were joined by over a dozen other Lettermen at Thursday’s kickoff event. The overwhelming message from the Penn State program, Lions Legacy Club and the Lettermen, NIL is going to take a team effort to be successful.
“We all play a part in it,” Arrington said. “That’s why they say ‘WE ARE.’ So let’s live by our moniker. Let’s continue to build this [NIL] thing the way that we should. Let’s listen and build ‘WE ARE.'”
For more information on Penn State’s NIL program, Happy Valley United (the NIL collective supporting all Penn State athletes) and Lions Legacy Club (the football specific collective), you can visit the Happy Valley United website by clicking here.
Penn State Football fans will get closer than ever to the team this fall, as abc27 launches Nittany Insiders. Every Saturday, the preview show will break down Penn State’s matchup, feature player’s stories off the field, and focus on NIL progress.
The weekly preview show will be co-hosted by former NFL linebacker and Penn State All-American Michael Mauti and abc27 Sports Director Allie Berube.
Each week Allie and Michael will break down the week’s upcoming game and share what the Nittany Lions will need to focus on for a win. Michael will be able to provide a unique expert analysis from the perspective of a former player.
The show will also feature a player spotlight, features on Lettermen, and content highlighting the program’s NIL efforts to create the most comprehensive Penn State show in the state each and every week.
Nittany Insiders will air every Saturday at 11:30 a.m. starting Saturday, August 26th. The 30-minute shows will feature interviews and insight you can only see on abc27.
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