The Class of 2018: The Luckiest of All

With a Fiesta Bowl win and the official end of football season, it’s hard not to reflect on how far our football team has come. We all know the typical rags to riches story that Penn State football has been in recent years, but if you think about a little more, the team’s rebuilding has taken place only in the last four years. For the class of 2018, that’s our entire college career - for us, our four years have been watching Penn State rise from the ashes in ways no one could have seen coming.

Four years ago, when we decided to attend Penn State, we knew we’d be going to a big football school but that we would likely never see it in its prime. Penn State’s legacy was still well-known but tarnished, with no indication as to when the black cloud would pass. We didn’t expect much to change while we were students, and just hoped that better days would come one day. 

And then, the unthinkable happened. After being at school for one week, our sanctions were lifted (and a rally followed, of course). We were eligible for bowl games again. From the moment we got there, we never had to experience a football season ruined by the sanctions imposed before our time. We felt lucky - but there were still miles to go.

As sophomores, we enjoyed football season even though we didn’t expect any gigantic wins. We knew we would lose to Michigan in our own White Out game and we were reeling from a loss against Pitt. But we couldn’t complain too much - our sanctions were gone, which was more than most probably expected by that point in 2015. We were happy, but wanted more.

Everything changed junior year. The Ohio State game was as unexpected as it was magical. It seemed to have broken the spell that had been plaguing us for so long: while the sanctions were gone for two years, we still couldn’t seem to get back to where we once were. That day changed everything. We had a dream season after Ohio State, and went from being unranked to shooting up to the Top 10. We ended up in the Rose Bowl - when two years before we had been to the Pinstripe Bowl - and the year before that, we were banned from bowl games altogether. It was a happy ending and new beginning all in one.

 

 

And now, in our senior year, we had a season we never could have dreamed of. Sure it wasn’t perfect, but if you told us what it would look like three years ago, it wouldn’t have seemed possible. To lose only two games (by almost nothing), to have such a long winning streak, to place in the Fiesta Bowl - all of those accomplishments felt like they would be so far off in 2014.

In four years, the Penn State football team has turned around and the Class of 2018 has had the craziest luck by being able to witness it start from nothing. It runs deeper than football - it’s about our community, our school, our home. A community we joined and still loved when it was down on its luck years after a scandal that ruined our name. A community that was still ridiculed for the actions of one man. They were terrible, destructive, horrifying actions, but they weren’t ours.

As football season ends, it also signals the end of another chapter - our class’s chapter. Our journey from freshmen to seniors, our college careers. Penn State’s football program has changed drastically, but so have we. 

 

Just think about it for a second, go back to Fall 2014. There was no Uber; East Halls weren’t under construction; we waited for ages to crowd onto the White Loop; there was no Champs, H&M, downtown Target, Hyatt, the Met, or even new HUB. “Netflix and Chill” hadn’t been coined, and PSU Eats was brand new. Walking back to Snyder or Hastings was the most stress anyone had to deal with.

Why did we wear knee high socks and fun pants all the time? How did we fit all of our friends into our tiny East dorms? How did we use a bathroom whose showers looked like they were made for a prison? Who told us that wearing heels in the snow was a good idea?

 

Our class will be the last one to remember any of this. Even the grade one year below us will remember construction in East and downtown, and has always had some places like the new HUB around. We’re the only ones left.

So as our final semester begins, try to reflect on just how much has changed in the four years we’ve had at Penn State. We have a lot to be proud of.

We are the luckiest class, because we’ve seen all kinds of transformations from the moment we stepped on campus until the moment we’ll graduate. We could not have asked for a better four years to be at the best school in the world.

Enjoy the last semester, Class of 2018 - we’re almost at the finish line of a pretty amazing race.