Just a few months ago, Happy Valley was filled with despair, regret, anger and trepidation about the future of not only the football program, but the reputation of the Penn State University as a whole.
That level of fear heading into the 2012 football season was well warranted after the NCAA leveled Penn State with sanctions that ranged from a $60 million fine to a four-year bowl ban.
What made things a bit worse was that rumors began to circulate—courtesy of ESPN.com— that Penn State's only other option would've been the daunting death penalty. That sanction would have destroyed a football program, and more importantly it would have killed an entire community and its economy.
Regardless of whether you think the sanctions on Penn State were too light for the alleged cover up by senior-level administration, or if you think they were too harsh, there's no changing the fact that there were a number of innocent football players feeling the brunt of the punishment.
We live in a society that promotes the concept of simply giving up in the face of adversity. That's what many thought the 2012 Penn State Nittany Lions football program would do.
With a new coach in Bill O'Brien, a number of key position players jumping ship, like Silas Redd, Justin Brown and Anthony Fera, and a challenging season ahead, the world turned its back on Penn State.
It wasn't until a few Penn State seniors, who could've rightfully left the team, stepped up and declared their commitment to helping form the foundation for what Penn State will be for the next hundred years.
The moment when Michael Mauti said—"this program was not built by one man, and it sure as hell isn't going to get torn down by one man"—is a moment that will live on as one of the most important moments in Penn State history.
That moment's importance signifies the shift in the Penn State world from blaming the world around them to accepting responsibility for what it could control and moving ahead to forge a new path, even against tumultuous circumstances.
That level of responsibility acceptance isn't something that we see often in this world of blame and self pity that we live in.
For a group of young men to rally around that concept of controlling what they can and leaving blame in the dust is something truly remarkable.
After emotional speeches and exciting pep rallies, the 2012 football season got under way in Happy Valley. Unfortunately, it didn't start out the way that Penn State fans dreamed it would.
A 24-14 loss, to the now 8-4 Ohio Bobcats, was not the way Penn State wanted to start off the season. But adversity wasn't anything new for this Penn State team.
Following up that loss, though, to Ohio with a 17-16 loss to an underwhelming Virginia team, where kicker Sam Ficken missed four field goals and an extra point, should've ended Penn State's season.
Penn State had someone to blame for the loss, just like they did when the NCAA laid the hammer down with their sanctions. They had a scapegoat, and his name was Sam Ficken.
That's not how the 2012 Penn State team decided to handle things, though. Instead of blaming those around them, even a player on their own team, they decided to forge ahead and continue to grow together.
That process of growth led to a five-game winning streak, and a 10-game stretch that saw Penn State end the season with an impressive 8-4 overall record.
Penn State capped off the season with an emotional win over the Wisconsin Badgers in the first overtime game in Beaver Stadium history. It was a game that truly encapsulated the overall theme of the 2012 season—resiliency.
The 2012 Penn State football team showed the college football world that in the face of adversity, giving up is never an option—even if you're not directly responsible for the adversity standing in your way.
The 2012 Penn State football team proved that life is truly about forging ahead instead of looking back.
The more ESPN focused on how bleak of a future Penn State had, the more Penn State rallied around itself and how strongly they all had to believe in each other.
In a very challenging time, Penn State showed us that adversity can make us stronger, if we put blame behind and take control of what we can.
The 2012 team will live on in Penn State history as the team that not only saved the football program, but also showed us all what being a true team really means.
Penn State's "one team" theme defined the 2012 season, and it also gave Penn State a foundation to build its future on.
The darkest days are behind, and thanks to the 2012 Penn State football team, there are much brighter days ahead.
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