Quarterbacks always can use a little help from their offensive linemen, and Penn State has a little bit of help from an offensive lineman when the Nittany Lions were recruiting JUCO quarterback Tyler Ferguson.
Irv Pankey, a 1979 Lions captain who spent 13 years in the NFL, is part of the coaching staff at College of the Sequoias, where Ferguson played his freshman year of college ball. So, when Bill O'Brien and Charlie Fisher began talking to Ferguson, it only was natural that Pankey and Ferguson would get together to discuss the Lions at some point.
"He sat down with me one day and just told me you won't find a better place than Penn State as far as a college atmosphere and academics and football, the way that city holds its football program," Ferguson said. "He said, 'You can go to a bunch of Pac-12 schools. You can go to Arizona, or you can go to UCLA, but they are all pretty similar.' He said you will never find another school that is like Penn State."
Since Ferguson didn't have a chance to visit University Park, Pankey was a good source of information about the program, the college and the community.
"It's a newer team, but the theme of the school hasn't changed. He'll get a great education and play big-time football," Pankey said. "I sat Tyler down for about an hour and told him it was a great opportunity. There's a huge alumni base. There's tradition."
Originally from Aberdeen, Md. and the father of twin sons who played for Oregon State, Pankey still has deep feelings for his alma mater. He was proud of the season the Lions just had and thinks Ferguson will fit in well.
"I don't think there's any coach that steps on campus that can say there's anything wrong with [Penn State]. What Coach O'Brien and the staff did this year, and the guys that stayed there, that shows something about the character of the kids that are playing there," Pankey said. "Tyler's a smart kid. He's a good athlete. He's a hard worker, and he wants to be successful. I talked to Coach Fisher when he came out, and he put him through the ringer, football-wise. He's good people. He comes from a great family."
An all-NFL pick in 1988 when he played for the Rams, Pankey also thinks Ferguson has a lot of potential.
"There are some mechanical things he has to work on, but Coach O'Brien was there with Tom Brady. He'll get him going in the right direction. I think he has every opportunity. He's a big kid with a strong arm, he's football smart," Pankey said. "If you ask me, he'll do well at Penn State, and he'll do well with the tutelage he gets there."