Stefen Wisniewski is better right now than his All-American uncle Steve was while at Penn State in the late 1980s.
That's one person's opinion, and it comes straight from the person who would know best.
"I'll be the first to say Stefen's a better football player than I was at this point in his career," Steve Wisniewski said.
Mirror file photo by J.D.?Cavrich
Stefen Wisniewski is moving back to guard on the offensive line for Penn?State this fall.
That is remarkably high praise given that Steve was a two-time All-American, eight-time Pro Bowl selection and member of the NFL's All-Decade Team for the 1990s as a guard.
"He's a phenomenal football player," Steve Wisniewski said of his nephew, who will be a senior this season. "I've told everybody who will listen that Stefen is a better football player - regardless of the All-America thing - and he's further developed than I was."
Stefen Wisniewski has seen his name appear on numerous preseason All-America lists this summer. He's moving back from center, where he played last year, to his more natural position of right guard, where he started in 2008.
"I've always been trying to be the best player in the country," Wisniewski said. "So seeing myself named [All-American], I think it's a cool honor. But I realize that preseason honors don't mean too much, and it just means that I have to work that hard to try to keep myself up there."
If he can, he'll be able to match some of the family bragging rights that his uncle enjoyed in 1987 and '88.
"It's definitely been my goal since I've been here to be a first-team All-American," Wisniewski said. "I walk by my uncle every day. He's on the All-American wall here and in our complex, and I've always wanted to join him.
"I haven't made it yet, but I'm in position where I can do that if I play at my best all year and have a great year."
The mutual respect between uncle and nephew is clearly evident.
"I'm extremely proud of Stefen because anybody who knows him just knows what a special young man he is," Steve Wisniewski said. "He's one of the nicest kids you're ever going to meet."
Stefen, in turn, knows how great of a football player his uncle was and has a goal of trying to match him on the field.
"He knows he's better than me anyway," Stefen said when asked if his uncle gives him a hard time about the All-America issue. "He's a two-time All-American, and I can't match that.
"But I always joke with him that one area I'm passing him is Academic All-American. I got that twice and am trying to do it a third time. So that's one area I can beat him. But I certainly can't beat him in All-Americans."
Stefen is one of many legacy players to play for Penn State during the Joe Paterno era. His father, Leo, was a nose tackle from 1978-81, and a few years later Steve came along.
Uncle Steve, a member of PSU's 1986 national championship team, said his nephew reminds him of one of the great guards to ever play the game.
"He reminds me very much of Hall of Fame guard Mike Munchak, who I believe was the best guard ever to play at Penn State," Steve Wisniewski said.
"He reminds me of Mike because Mike always made it look easy. He was always in good position. He almost looked bored sometimes playing the game because things just looked so easy for him."
Comparing his nephew to himself during college, Steve said Stefen is "a better technician. He doesn't get out of position, he doesn't flail around like I did."
The youngest Wisniewski is looking forward to returning to guard this season. He more than held his own at center last year and earned all-conference recognition, but he clearly has a position preference.
"I'm a little bit more comfortable at guard," he said. "I like the ability to use both hands. That's pretty cool when you're blocking, not having to start with your hand between your legs."
He also likes "having a little bit more space and area to maneuver" at guard, as opposed to a defender being right in his face immediately after he snapped the ball at center.
Wisniewski did what the team needed him to do by switching spots last year, and showing that kind of versatility is something that could pay off for him in the pros.
"An NFL team that's looking at me would be able to look at film of me playing center and playing guard," he said. "I think that will definitely help me."
Cory Giger can be reached at 949-7031 and firstname.lastname@example.org.