Behind the scenes with the Penn State football team

By on January 14, 2015
As Penn State head coach James Franklin gets a push from assistant Brent Pry, Manheim Central grad Michael Brown (third from right) walks onto the field at Beaver Stadium with the other student equip¬ment managers during the Nittany Lions’ photo day last fall.(Photo by Joe Hermitt, The Patriot-News)

As Penn State head coach James Franklin gets a push from assistant Brent Pry, Manheim Central grad Michael Brown (third from right) walks onto the field at Beaver Stadium with the other student equip¬ment managers during the Nittany Lions’ photo day last fall.(Photo by Joe Hermitt, The Patriot-News)

Michael Brown wouldn’t have changed anything about his football career at Manheim Central.
He loved playing for the Barons and contributing in their run to the 2013 District Three Triple-A championship game.
So it made sense that Brown wanted to stay involved with the sport in college.
His “dream school,” though, was Penn State and he knew that playing at the Division-One level wouldn’t be in the cards.
Still, Brown got his wish.
The 2014 Manheim Central grad was on the sidelines for every game with the Nittany Lions this fall as a student equipment manager.
While admitting that he does miss playing, Brown is glad for the chance to remain close to the game.
“Being a part of Penn State football, it fills up the fact that I can’t play at a D-I level, so it’s been great to be able to be with such an elite program as Penn State,” said Brown, who played at 5-foot-8, 185 pounds as a MC senior. “Even though I can’t play at that level, that’s been awesome for me.”
That awesome experience extended to the Pinstripe Bowl at Yankee Stadium, where the Nittany Lions earned a 31-30 overtime victory over Boston College on a walk-off PAT by kicker Sam Ficken two days after Christmas.
Afterward, in the tunnel just outside of the Lions’ locker room, Brown was busy getting equipment ready to be loaded back onto the team buses.
“It was a great experience,” he said. “The coolest part for me was being behind the scenes &tstr; being in the locker room, the training room and being underneath the stadium where all the players normally are. It was just neat to be able to say that’s where all these Yankees actually play, that’s where they go to work. It was neat to work in that setting.”
For years, Yankees’ iconic shortstop Derek Jeter went to work in those spaces. Brown was there as a Yankees’ clubhouse guy showed members of the Penn State team around the facilities and pointed out the locker of Jeter and other bigger stars.
“It was cool to put (kicker Sam Ficken) in (Jeter’s locker) &tstr; everybody was joking around with it,” Brown recalled. “They said it was good luck to have our kicker in Jeter’s locker.”
Last June, as he was looking forward to his freshman year at Penn State, it might have been tough to imagine being in Yankee Stadium. But when he arrived in Happy Valley over the summer, Brown fired off a ton of emails to people in the Nittany Lions’ football directory hoping to get his foot in the door.
In August, as the Nittany Lions reported to camp, he was in the right place at the right time.
“I came in the one day and we were short-staffed, so I was hired right then and just started working right at the beginning of the season during camp,” Brown said. “It was really fast, it all just happened real quick, but I’m happy it happened.”
Fully-staffed, Brown is one of 11 student equipment managers who work hard to help keep things running smoothly.
He estimates that they put in roughly 40 hours per week, plus or minus, including preparing equipment for practices, assisting the Nittany Lions’ position coaches for drills and the like, and having the locker room ready to go on game days.
“Game days are long ones,” Brown said, “because you’ve got to make sure everything is on point for the game.”
One of the rewards, of course, is getting an up-close look at a game like the one Penn State played against Ohio State on Oct. 25, where the Nittany Lions took the Buckeyes to double OT before suffering a 31-24 defeat.
“Beaver Stadium for our whiteout game this year with Ohio State was probably the best time I’ve ever (had) at a game because the atmosphere is just unbelievable,” Brown said. “There’s nothing like Beaver Stadium completely packed and everybody yelling the entire time. It was really neat to be down at field level having all that energy in the stadium.”
The sidelines were packed as well, but as Brown describes, there is a mutual respect between the players and the managers.
“The guys are awesome to be around,” he said. “We work with all the players, so a lot of times we’re just treated as one of the guys. So that’s really cool. We’ve all gotten to know each other.”
It wasn’t all that long ago when Brown was one of the players, delivering tackles and throwing blocks as a lineman for the Barons.
Asked if he considered going to a Division-Two or Three school to continue his career, Brown said, “Not really, just because of the fact that I’ve always loved Penn State. I had to figure out first off what’s best for my future and I thought that Penn State would help me further than playing at a small school.”
In the end, everything worked out for the best.
“It’s great for networking,” Brown said. “It’s a great job to be able to put on the resume and it’s an awesome experience to be able to say I work with Penn State football while I was in college. It’s something that most kids can’t say about their college experience, so I’m very fortunate to be able to be part of something like this.”

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