Former players vocal in support of Bradley
By Nate Bauer
When Justin King took his official visit to Penn State as a standout junior from Gateway High School, in a meeting with then-university president Graham Spanier, King made a request.
In short, when an aging Joe Paterno's career finally would come to a end, King asked that Tom Bradley be named the next head coach at Penn State.
"In '04, I didn't know how much longer Joe would be there. I just wanted to let him know that I felt from my experience with recruiting that I would like Scrap to be the next person," King recalled on Tuesday afternoon. "I thought that as long as it's someone from within, it would be best. That's something they always preach at Penn State... family - that's one of the reasons that I went there.
"It wasn't like all the other schools where it was almost a business. It was really like a family and I would hate to see that be lost."
As Penn State conducts its coaching search and interview process following the sudden departures of Paterno, Spanier, and athletic director Tim Curley in the fallout of the Jerry Sandusky child sex abuse scandal, that foundation is very much at stake.
Though speculation of a complete house-cleaning to the staff of the football program has grown, so too has the vocal support in defense of Bradley from prominent former Nittany Lions. King, now a cornerback with the NFL's St. Louis Rams, is one of many former players who have kept a close eye on the scandal, its fallout and effect on the football program at Penn State.
"I've watched his press conference and we've texted back and forth following the games he's coached. I think he's done a great job," Jacksonville Jaguars linebacker Paul Posluszny said. "He's in a horrible situation, obviously. Everybody knows that he's in a very, very difficult situation and he's handled it with class, with respect, and he's done things the right way.
"What a great example of someone that you want to lead your team and your organization."
Though he declined to be interviewed for this story, former All-American linebacker Brandon Short also showed his support for Bradley.
In a statement released to Blue White Illustrated, Short said, "Tom Bradley is the best possible candidate for the head coaching position at Penn State. Tom has my full support."
Talking with former teammates in the NFL like Mike Robinson and Deon Butler of the Seattle Seahawks, and Jordan Norwood of the Cleveland Browns, King said there's a strong sense among the players of wanting to maintain the level of tradition that had been so important to their experiences at Penn State.
"I feel like it's a big thing. We talk about it and we would like somebody to still be there that was there when we were there," he said. "At Penn State, everything was based off of tradition. Everything was based off of how it was done before you. You respect everybody that came before you, so it would be weird if someone from another school or has no ties to Penn State came in and cleans house and brings in all new people.
"They don't know us. We don't have anything to do with them. It's almost like it erases everything that was before them to a certain extent. I would like to see someone from within stay and take it over."
Former Penn State offensive lineman and Rimington Trophy winner, A.Q. Shipley, echoed their sentiments.
"I think it's very important. I think for so many years what set us apart was being Penn State," he said. "Everything that Coach Paterno has instilled in all his coaches and players, all the morals, all the values, everything.
"I think Tom gets that. I think he really gets that and I think he's been a part of it for so long, it's become a part of him and it's become a part of all of us. I think that's something that is very important that we built and need to keep alive."
Though former players are not being consulted in the coaching search in an official capacity, many of them are now attempting to do exactly that by lending their support to Bradley through a variety of avenues.
LaVar Arrington, a former All-America linebacker from Penn State still deeply involved in the program, is one of many players who have now signed an online petition to show their support. Others have reportedly taken steps to contact members of the search committee and acting athletic director David Joyner to lend their support.
Having proven his character and ability to handle an already difficult situation, King said he's fully behind the effort, though the circumstances may not yield the result he's hoping for.
"Scrap knows how to handle himself and he knows how to represent the university in a great way. I felt he did a great job with it and that's what I expected," he said. "I never expected anything else. He's been under Joe's wing for a long time and it's only the shady situation right now that makes him, the clear cut person, not so clear anymore."