This week's game against Navy is extra special for Penn State senior fullback P.J. Byers, a 27-year-old who's already a Navy diving specialist and will be a commissioned officer upon graduation.
"I can't wait to play against them," Byers said Tuesday.
Byers spoke to the media on the anniversary of 9/11, and recalled how the tragic day 11 years ago played a role in shaping his life.
"It means a great deal to me because whenever that happened I was a sophomore in high school, and it was kind of a small thing that triggered me to join the military," Byers said. "Those people are never forgotten, and that's one of the reasons why a lot of us are here fighting for what we do."
Saturday is Military Appreciation Day at Beaver Stadium, and Byers is one of two Nittany Lion players with military experience. Defensive end Brent Smith, a 26-year-old freshman, served two tours of duty in Iraq as a marine.
"P.J. Byers is a very special kid," PSU coach Bill O'Brien said. "He's a guy that's in the Navy, and he wants to be a diver ... so you're talking about a guy that's a very unique guy. Brent Smith's another guy, very unique guy. This is a big week for them.
"We've got a guy on staff, Stevie Williams, who played football at Harvard, plays in the pros for a little bit and his mom was in the Air Force for I think 26, 27 years. So you're talking about a very special week for a lot of guys in our program, and we have so much respect for the military and what it means to our country and so much respect for the Naval Academy and the work those guys put in."
Byers will spend a year training after graduation and plans to get a job in the Navy as a dive specialist "basically taking care of the IEDs in Iraq, underwater, all the kind of explosives."
"I love my job," he said.
Byers had one carry for 1 yard last season against Eastern Michigan, and this year he primarily serves as the fullback on the scout team -- or "Dirty Show," as O'Brien calls it -- helping prepare the defense for opponents.
"We have one mission here, and that's winning every game. ... As one team, we work toward that mission, just like the dive team when I was a diver," Byers said.