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Bill O’Brien leading Penn State through dark times with integrity

Bill O’Brien looks to get new era started in right direction

He has been asked some of the same questions since taking over the job of head coach at Penn State, but Bill O’Brien’s message remains the same. This may be a new era of Penn State football but he will not forget the traditions that have helped the program be built over the years in the wake of severe NCAA sanctions.

“I’m very respectful of the traditions here,” O’Brien said as he addressed the media Thursday, discussing the recent news of some uniform alterations for the upcoming season. “But it’s a new era of Penn State football in many ways… I want people to recognize the fact that these kids that are special, competitive kids that care about education, that care about Penn State, and have gone through some tough times over the last year as a team, individually, and they’ve stuck with us. I think that says a lot about these kids, and I want people to recognize these kids.”

Penn State players will have their last names added to their football uniforms for the 2012 season, an addition that has been met with a wide amount of negative reaction within the Penn State community after decades of plain uniforms without names. Penn State will also add a blue ribbon to promote child abuse awareness somewhere on the uniform, although the exact location has not been confirmed yet.

“At the end of the day, to me going into this year, the most important patch on the uniform is the blue patch and blue ribbon that will signify putting an end to child abuse,” O’Brien said. “To me, that is the most important patch on the uniform or wherever we’re going to put it.”

O’Brien will be the first new head coach to open a season on Penn State’s sidelines since Joe Paterno opened the 1966 season at home against Maryland. A lot has changed since then, of course, but O’Brien does not waste time thinking about replacing Paterno on the sidelines.

“I don’t think about seceding anyone. I just try to come to work every day with a great staff, great group of kids, take it day-to-day, keep things in perspective. Understanding that this is about educating young men. This is about doing the best job you can to teach them how to play football your way.”

While O’Brien may not want to think about replacing a coaching icon in the wake of a tarnished legacy, what he said next could have been copied from any number of previous Paterno press conferences.

“See, you guys upset our routine with this,” O’Brien said to the media referring to the media day schedule. Paterno was never a fan of these sorts of events either.

Perhaps O’Brien is holding on to one tradition after all.

Here is a look at what media day and practice looked like in State College last week.

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About the Author

Kevin McGuire
Contributor to College Football Talk on Also a contributor to Athlon Sports and The Comeback. Member of Football Writers Association of America and National Football Foundation. Follow on Twitter @KevinOnCFB.