Penn State Athletics
Chris Godwin caught a team-high 59 passes in 2016.

A brief history of Penn State’s first-round failings, Jonathan Holland’s stock on the rise and more

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This is your Penn State Wake-Up Call for Friday, April 28. Let’s get started.


The ghosts of picks past

Penn State wide receiver Chris Godwin was not expected to be selected in the first round of the NFL draft on Thursday, and he was not.

Just as well, considering the checkered history of the Nittany Lions’ first-round selections.

Who can forget how things turned out for Todd Blackledge (No. 7 overall to Kansas City, 1983) or Kenny Jackson (No. 4 to Philadelphia, ’84)? Who can forget that Courtney Brown (No. 1 to Cleveland, 2000) had 19 sacks in 61 career games, that Aaron Maybin (No. 11 to Buffalo, 2009) had 6 sacks in four seasons, or that Andre Johnson (No. 30 to Washington, ’96) played exactly three games in three years?

The fortunes of PSU’s first-round running backs have been especially sour. D.J. Dozier (No. 14 to Minnesota, ’87), Blair Thomas (No. 2 to the Jets, ’90), Ki-Jana Carter (No. 1 to Cincinnati, ’95) and Curtis Enis (No. 5 to Chicago, ’98) had little impact in the NFL, after productive college careers.

In all, 31 Penn State players have been chosen in the first round since the NFL-AFL merger in 1970. Some starred in the NFL. Franco Harris (No. 13 to Pittsburgh, ’72) is in the Hall of Fame. So is Mike Munchak (No. 8 to the Houston Oilers, ’82). And Mike Reid (No. 7 to Cincinnati, ’70) likely would have been, had he not retired after five seasons to become a Grammy-winning songwriter.

There also have been a bunch of solid pros, such as Keith Dorney (No. 10 to Detroit, ’79), Shane Conlan (No. 8 to Buffalo, ’87) and Tamba Hali (No. 20 to Kansas City, 2006).

Of those 31, 19 would qualify as solid picks. Another, Booker Moore (No. 28 to Buffalo, ’81), might have been, had he not been limited to three seasons because of Guillan-Barre Syndrome. He died of a heart attack in 2009.

But the misses have been so glaring that few ever will forget.

Better, then, that Godwin plots his own course that he goes in the second round, where Jack Ham was taken in 1971. Or the third, where Navorro Bowman went in 2010.

Anywhere but the first round, where the ghosts of draft picks past are forever lurking.


Jonathan Holland on the rise

Tight end Jonathan Holland told Mike Poorman of Statecollege.com that he considers himself “a late bloomer” and added that he now “really (has his) head on straight.”

That has admittedly not always been the case for Holland, who will be a redshirt sophomore in the fall. As he told Poorman:

“The first couple years I may not have handled it the right way. Little things, like if there was a meeting and I forgot my notebook. It may not be a big deal to me or the other guys, but it means a lot in the coaches’ eyes.”

Holland did not have a catch last season, but with Mike Gesicki a healthy scratch and the rest of the tight ends nursing undisclosed injuries, Holland had eight grabs in the Blue-White Game, most on either team. Coach James Franklin praised him for finally getting squared away, on and off the field.

If Holland continues to play his cards right – if he keeps his head screwed on straight – he stands to be Gesicki’s primary backup this season, and his potential successor in 2018.

As he put it:

“If you stay on the straight and narrow it makes it a lot easier for things to happen. Gaining the coaches’ trust and being someone they can rely on is great for any player, honestly. If they can’t trust you off the field, they can’t trust you on the field.”


French connection

David Jones of Pennlive.com writes about Blaise Collin, a French nuclear engineer who lives in Idaho and can’t get enough of American football.

Confusing? No doubt. Collin got a taste of the game while visiting an aunt in Boston as a young boy, and through seeing it on cable TV in his native land.

His interest deepened in 2003 when he did post-doctoral work in the physics department at Penn State and attended games at Beaver Stadium. Forget that the Lions went 3-9 that season; the competition was the thing with him. Always has been, as he told Jones:

“Anything where two teams compete and there’s a winner and loser at the end, I can watch anything. You want to know who’s going to win.”

He would in time begin writing about the game for a French website, FootballAmericain.com, and he spent a five-week vacation in 2008 traveling up and down the West Coast, visiting various college football venues.

Two years later he settled in Idaho, where he now works at the Idaho National Laboratory, a federal nuclear testing and research facility.

Collin, who was credentialed to cover the Blue-White Game and this week’s NFL draft, told Jones he is partial to the college game:

“The enthusiasm of the students behind their sports teams is just something that’s incredible. … The tradition and everything that goes on around college football is just so incredible. And so much fun to watch and experience.”


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