The snow only produced one minor hiccup for Thursday’s celebrity reception at the 53rd annual York Area Sports Night program.
That hiccup, however, made NFL legend John Randle into the busiest man in the room.
With his flight into town delayed Thursday morning, Randle’s arrival at Heritage Hills Golf Resort and Conference Center came more than midway through the reception. By then, the other sports dignitaries had mostly finished their signings and the autograph seekers had formed quite a line awaiting the arrival of the Pro Football Hall of Fame defensive lineman.
Randle’s travel woes aside, however, Thursday’s event went off without much of a hitch. One organizer said the weather had little to no effect on attendance.
Some of the other sports names in attendance included a pair of former Penn State football standouts in linebacker Shane Conlan and wideout Derrick Williams. Baseball Hall of Fame reliever Bruce Sutter was also on hand, as was former Red Lion High School football standout Andrew Zeller, who played in college for Maryland on the offensive line.
State of the Lions: Not surprisingly, the former Nittany Lions were one of the larger draws at the event.
Both Conlan and Williams admitted they wouldn’t have predicted the Lions’ surprising 11-3 season that resulted in a Big Ten title and a Rose Bowl appearance. Still, it was a pleasant surprise.
The pair also gave similarly positive assessments on the performance thus far by head coach James Franklin.
“When he got hired, I knew that they had the right man,” Williams said. “I’ve known coach Franklin for years, probably since I was 6. The values and the morals that he has as a coach and as a man, and what he’s passing on to the kids, he’s done a great job. “
However, despite the team’s recent success, the pair differs in their expectations for the year ahead.
“You’ve got to buy into it right now,” Williams said of chatter that PSU might contend for a national title next fall. “If this is your team, if you’re a player, you always think of the best things that could happen, and right now I think that is the national championship. We have the ability to do it, we were pretty much right there this year. We had some injuries at the beginning of the year, but we started picking it up.”
By comparison, Conlan’s was decidedly more reserved.
“I don’t know about that,” Conlan said when asked about the title talk. “Not that (this year) was lucky or an anomaly or anything like that. Chances are it won’t be as good, but you never know. Things really fell the right way for them (last year), but I think they’re going to be really good next year. It’s the year after that and the next one where it could really start to show.”
Sutter: The lines loomed just as long for Sutter. The Lancaster native and Donegal High School grad was another name with big local appeal.
The Hall of Famer expressed his pleasure that Tim Raines was able to gain entry into Cooperstown this season.
“I was happy for (Jeff) Bagwell, happy for Pudge (Ivan Rodriguez), but I was really happy for Tim Raines," Sutter said. "I just know, from waiting a long time and then getting in, it was so special for me. I’d like to see everyone get in.”
Major League Baseball is currently mulling a possible change to its rules that would raise the strike zone from the lower part of a batter’s knee to the top. Sutter doesn’t see such a change having a significant impact.
“I don’t think they’re ever going to do it,” Sutter said. “(The strike zone) is in the umpire’s eyes. He sets up the same way, strike zone is in his eyes. And it’s in the hitter’s eyes. It’s one of those deals you can’t go messing with too much.”
Zeller: Zeller was making his first appearance at Sports Night.
He was quick to thank area fans and Sports Night officials for considering him when the guest list was made up.
“It’s wonderful that the community has supported me throughout my entire career, and that I’m able to give back at a setting like this,” Zeller said.
During his days at Red Lion as a two-way standout lineman, Zeller was a major part of the Lions reaching the District 3 Class 4-A finals in 2010.
Zeller said he took pride in watching his old high school team post a 10-1 record this season, despite a disappointing end in the first round of district play.
“They had a stupendous season,” Zeller said of Red Lion. “It’s a big shout out to coach (Jesse) Shay and the guys he’s brought in there since I’ve graduated. He’s done well, and the kids’ success goes back to him and the work he puts in.”
After signing with the Detroit Lions this summer as an undrafted free agent, Zeller was waived before the season began. However, he isn’t ready to give up on the game just yet.
“I’m open to where life takes,” Zeller said. “Nothing is set in stone, I still work out in the morning. I’m interested to see where life is going to take me, I’m still young and there are still a lot of opportunities to pursue.”
Reach Elijah Armold at firstname.lastname@example.org.