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July 31, 2012Thousands of fans packed the sidewalks and parking lots between Nittany Apartments, the Lasch Building and Holuba Hall early Tuesday morning on Penn State's campus, cheering and screaming in support of their beleaguered Nittany Lions.
The sentiment wasn't lost on Penn State's players as they streamed one-by-one, first into the Lasch Building, then as a team into Holuba Hall, shaking hands, smiling and waving through it all.
Under extreme pressure since the onset of the Jerry Sandusky scandal in November - and handling it all with aplomb - the Lions were returned the favor Tuesday morning.
For that, senior leader and Penn State fullback Mike Zordich was left nearly speechless following the short morning workout.
"You can do nothing but appreciate it," he said. "You fall in love with everybody that you're playing for.
"All of these people mean so much to the university that you feel like you have an obligation to play for them and put everything out there for them. Right now we're itching to get out on the field on Saturdays because it's going to be an awesome year."
Though Zordich and many of his upperclassman teammates have made public commitments to remain at Penn State for the duration of their college careers, younger members of the Nittany Lions, including true freshmen who just arrived on campus at the end of June, have had a tougher time adjusting to the ramifications of the NCAA sanctions eliminating scholarships and bowl trips, teammates said.
With that in mind, Tuesday morning's outpouring of support by Penn State fans acted as more than just a public affirmation and spectacle for the media, Zordich said.
"The rules came out at a bad time for the younger guys because they just got here," he said. "They haven't really experienced the real Penn State thing, they've just been working out, so for them to see all this support just for a half hour, 45 minute workout, it's kind of mind blowing for them and rightfully so, because where else do you get something like this?
"I can't thank the fans enough for helping us out and showing their support and everything else."
Of course, having played in front of these same fans for his whole career, Zordich said he wasn't entirely surprised by the type of reaction and support the Nittany Lions have gotten in the wake of the depressing news more than a week ago.
"It took a couple of days to recover and just think things through," he said. We knew we were going to have this kind of reaction, but we didn't know it was going to be this big. You can't imagine so many people coming for a workout.
"You just show up, your jaw drops and you're just in awe. You can do nothing but thank them and go out and play for them."