LB Smith a great story
Neil wouldn’t let me pick Marcus Allen, questioning whether the safety who blocked the field goal against Ohio State can be considered unsung, and yet he was able to choose a three-year starter in Brian Gaia.
I’m beginning to think Neil is rigging this point/counterpoint!
In all seriousness, Neil and I usually have to talk out numerous topics each week to come up with one we disagree on. Unlike “First Take,” where those clowns take a stance just for the sake of disagreeing, what we’ve tried to do in this space each week is find an important topic or issue where we truly do disagree.
That said, I can’t argue with his choice of Gaia for unsung hero. The center has been the glue that’s held together the offensive line through enormous adversity, and he’s an exceptional leader.
What makes this Penn State so special, though, is that there truly are a bunch of unsung heroes. There are a lot of fine young men, not just good players, in the program, and they’ve helped the sum become greater than we ever thought the parts could be.
No one on the team represents that more than linebacker Brandon Smith, who epitomizes the “next man up” philosophy in the program.
Smith, who came to PSU as a walk-on fullback, had played a grand total of three plays in his career before he was pressed into action after all three starting linebackers got injured. He started against Temple, had eight tackles, and played a major role the next few weeks to help the defense stay afloat and then start to thrive.
Smith leads the team with two interceptions, including one to start the second half at Purdue with the game tied to ignite PSU’s 62-24 rout. He also broke up a key fourth-down pass at the goal line last week at Indiana.
Smith, the lone married player on the team, just might be the Lions’ best story this year.
Without taking anything away from Gaia, he was expected to be a big contributor from day one, while no one figured Smith would be counted on to play as much, and as well, as he has.
Giger can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.