Penn State Football: 12 "Problem Players" of JoePa's Career
Penn State has been an easy target for critics of the program's clean approach to the sport of college football. While the arguments or reports against Penn State have been based on some general facts and statements, there has been plenty more positive news coming out of the program compared to negative stories.
During Joe Paterno's lengthy career at Penn State, he has had a number of players have brushes with the law and with team rules. Here is a rundown of 12 names you may remember seeing in the headlines for some of the wrong reasons.
1. Chris Bell
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When one Nittany Lion is accused of threatening a teammate with a 12-inch knife over an argument about a cell phone case, that player is without a doubt a problem player.
Such was the case for Chris Bell, who was accused of threatening defensive tackle Devon Still with a large knife, and assistant coaches Mike McQueary, Kermit Buggs and Dick Anderson had to restrain Bell during a dining room incident. A police report said that Bell told Still "Come get the case, and I am going to stab you," referencing the cell phone case Still accused Bell of stealing. Bell later shouted at Still, "I have more knives and a gun up here!"
Paterno suspended Bell from the team in February 2008 and would not allow him to participate in team activities before Bell was thrown off the team. Bell was later dismissed from the team on a permanent basis in that April.
2. Chris Baker
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Kicked off the Penn State roster in July of 2008, Chris Baker is one of the leading examples of what it takes to be in Joe Paterno's proverbial doghouse.
Baker was arrested twice in 2007 for fighting off-campus, and those incidents led the university to take action against Baker and eventually led to a dismissal from the football team by Paterno.
"It's always going to be a distraction because we're Penn State football players, and everything we do is going to be in the limelight and talked about a lot," Baker said in a column by The Daily Collegian in February 2008. "But I don't think it was fair for me to get kicked off the team because if I'm a distraction, there are a whole lot of people who are a distraction as far as people getting DUIs and other people getting into fights and other stuff that happens. But nobody else has been kicked off the team. I've been kicked off, and I don't think that's fair. But things happen."
Baker was charged with three felony counts. He ended up pleading guilty to three misdemeanor charges and received two years' probation.
3. Phil Taylor
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At the same time Chris Baker was kicked off the roster, Joe Paterno also gave Phil Taylor the boot. Fortunately for Taylor, he was able to turn things around at Baylor.
"I was young, I made a mistake and I moved on from it," the Baylor defensive tackle said on a conference call after being the Browns' first-round pick in the recent NFL Draft. "I went down to Baylor and made the best of a second chance and I'm happy to be here right now."
Taylor was charged with assault in 2008 but the charges were later dropped.
Taylor was drafted in the first round by the Cincinnati Bengals. He was the third member of Penn State's Class of 2006 to be drafted in the first round of the NFL draft over the past three seasons, with Aaron Maybin and Jared Odrick being the others.
4. Andrew Quarless
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Chris Bell, Chris Baker and Phil Taylor may have been the bigger headaches for Joe Paterno, but there were a couple more players linked to the entire sequence of events that led those players to being suspended form the team. Andrew Quarless was one of them.
Quarless failed to live up to some of his perceived potential on the field, and off-field issues made it easier for Paterno to send a message to his tight end in 2007. Quarless was linked to fights involving his teammates, and he was held out of spring practices in 2008. His starting job at tight end was given to Mickey Shuler Jr., but Quarless eventually worked his way back in to the starting job, leaving the program on a high note with a win in the Capital One Bowl and a game-winning touchdown in the East-West Shrine Game.
Quarless was picked up by the Green Bay Packers in 2010.
5. Navorro Bowman
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Another player who found himself in the wrong group of Nittany Lions with Baker, Taylor and Bell was linebacker Navorro Bowan, who Paterno had noted was distracted off the field for the longest time. But Bowman was able to turn things around at the right time.
Bowman served a suspension from the team similar to Quarless and worked his way back into his coaches good graces, entering his final season in State College. Paterno noted that Bowman finally had focus when in uniform and expected him to become a leader, which is exactly what he did in his final season alongside linebacker Sean Lee. Bowman took lessons from LaVar Arrington and became a linebacker NFL scouts were interested in.
Bowman was drafted by the San Francisco 49ers in 2010.
6. Knowledge Timmons
Knowledge Timmons was also linked to the same group of troublemakers under Paterno and served suspension time from the team with Quarless and Bowman.
Timmons was kicked off the team in January of 2008 while legal issues were cleared up off the field. Timmons was later reinstated and earned playing time at cornerback that season. He was held out of the 2007 Michigan State game and Alamo Bowl, but he was back on the field for the 2008 Big Ten championship season.
Timmons recorded one interception for 36 yards in 2008.
While his football playing days may be over, Timmons is still attempting to stay involved in the sport. Last year, Timmons gave coaching a crack at his high school as a volunteer.
7. Curtis Enis
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Curtis Enis recorded back-to-back seasons of 1,000-plus rushing yards, but his final months of eligibility were cut short due to accepting a gift from a sports agent, a suit for an awards show that season. Once Joe Paterno learned that Enis had lied about the accepting of a gift, the head coach kicked him off the team, prior to the Nittany Lions' trip to the Citrus Bowl in 1998 (1997 season).
Enis came to Penn State with a load of potential and hype, and he performed well on the field for the most part. His absence from the bowl game may have played a large factor in the loss to Florida, but the way he ended his career at Penn State left a giant stain on what would otherwise have been a fondly remembered collegiate career.
Enis went on to play a brief career in the NFL, being drafted by the Chicago Bears in 1998.
8. Austin Scott
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Like Curtis Ennis, Austin Scott was highly recruited and seen as a prize recruit by Penn State. But Scott failed to live up to the billing. Scott was dismissed from the team in October of 2007 as allegations of rape took him out of the picture.
Scott reached the peak of his Penn State career by filling in for Tony Hunt in the 2006 Orange Bowl victory over Florida State, and he was named the starting running back in 2007, but he struggled to secure the football. Later that season, he was accused of raping a girl, and from there, Paterno decided to remove him from the roster.
Scott claims Paterno's rash decision-making to cut him from the team cost him a legitimate shot in the NFL. The rape charges were later dropped when Assistant District Attorney Lance Marshall admitted there was "no reasonable likelihood the Commonwealth can meet its burden of proof."
9. Anthony Scirrotto
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Anthony Scirrotto and his girlfriend were attacked by a couple of men one night in late March, and police reports show that Scirrotto and a number of teammates tracked down the men and did damage to their residence and attacked them in retaliation later that night.
Scirrotto was charged with a number of offenses, but those were later dropped, and Scirrotto was free to go after pleading guilty to a misdemeanor trespassing charge against him. The cornerback and special teams player never saw a loss of playing time as a result of his connection to one of the most famous off-campus fighting incidents to involve Penn State players in recent memory, but the public perception was tough to shake moving forward.
Paterno kept Scirrotto in the starting lineup for the 2008 season, and he was a key member of the defense during a Big Ten championship season.
10. E.Z. Smith
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E.Z. Smith (77) and some teammates got into some mischief one night, which led to $700 damage to a dorm wall when Smith took the blame for shooting arrows in the dorm. The actions led Paterno and the football staff to suspending him from the team for the spring.
Smith also received a pair of underage drinking citations while at Penn State, putting himself at risk of losing playing time on an offensive line that was looking to rebuild in the 2004 season.
11. Bobby Engram
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Yes, Bobby Engram is a Penn State legend, but even he had his run-ins with Joe Paterno.
Engram stole a stereo from a campus apartment early in his college career, and Joe Paterno suspended him for the 1992 season. What kept Engram on the team was the fact that he was misled to believe he and teammate Ricky Sayles were given permission to take a stereo. Sayles was deemed the mastermind of the incident while a young Engram was a tad naive.
Charges against Engram were dropped after he agreed to take part in a pre-trial diversionary program. Sayles was kicked off the team.
Engram got back in good graces with Paterno and became the key wide receiver for Penn State's offense in 1994 and 1995, which included an undefeated season and a trip to the Rose Bowl in 1994.
12. Dan Connor
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Dan Connor may be one of the best linebackers Penn State has had, especially in recent seasons, but his sense of humor was lost on the coaching staff at times.
Connor, who is known to be a bit of a prankster, was known to make prank phone calls to a number of people, including members of the coaching staff. Connor was once arrested for criminal mischief for his improper phone calls, but even that couldn't keep Connor off the field and from making an impact on defense.
Still, Connor's actions were nothing that would sit well with Paterno.