The Nittany Lions have taken a beating recently with tons of unwanted publicity, but here's a good news story with a local connection.
Jon Rohrbaugh, a 2007 Howard High graduate, has been the long snapper on Penn State's football team the past two years. Earlier this week, at Penn State's football banquet, Jon was awarded the Outstanding Walk-On Award, which is given to the walk-on player who exemplifies total commitment, loyalty, hard work and courage.
What makes this a great human interest story is the path he took to get on the team. Jon lost an eye in a freak accident when he was 5 years old.
Howard High football was up and down when he was in high school and he was barely recruited. He wrote a letter to Penn State and got a phone call back.
Although he never was a long snapper in high school, Jon worked hard to become one.
He didn't make the team as a freshman, nor the fall of his sophomore year, but he did make the spring football team as a sophomore and played in the Blue and White game.
The next day, however, there was a note on his locker — thanks, but no thanks. He was cut again — for the fourth time. But Jon was determined to make the team and he kept working and training hard.
Near the end of September, his junior year, Penn State decided the back-up long snapper wasn't doing well, so they called Jon to join the team. Gradually he worked his way from third string long snapper to second string. Halfway through his senior year, last year, he had the starting spot and he has kept it this year, his last of eligibility and his fifth at Penn State.
Jon graduates this weekend with a degree in management information systems.
Grades before sports
I am somewhat stunned by the reaction to the State Board of Education's recommendation that students must maintain a "C" average to participate in high school sports.
Some seem to feel that the requirement, which goes into effect next year, is too strct and that it may mean that struggling students who want to play sports might just drop out of school.
First things first. The purpose of an education system is to educate — period. The sports program in all schools is an adjunct to learning — period. In other words, sports are secondary.
Maryland Public Secondary School's executive director Ned Sparks always stresses that sports are part of "an education-based system."
Secondly, the "new" requirement is not really new. Howard County and several other counties already have a requirement that calls for student who wants to participate in sports have to pass all courses for the marking period.
Third, maintaining a "C" average, or a 2.0 grade-point average, is not that hard for most students. For those who struggle to stay eligible, help is available within the school system.
Fourth, if a high school student wants to play sports and lets his or her grades go down, then he or she has already been failed by their family and the school system for not stressing at an earlier age the importance of education.
Sports will only take you so far. That means that most of your adult life, you will have to rely on skills other than catching a fly ball or hitting a free throw.
Even athletes who go on to play in college or professionally often have a tough time after that final whistle.
And finally, we should always put the education of a student first and foremost.