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Breneman ends PSU football career

MARK WOGENRICH
(Allentown) Morning Call (TNS)

Penn State football players have a long tradition of trading jerseys at their final practice of the season.

On New Year's Eve, quarterback Christian Hackenberg and tight end Adam Breneman, the cornerstones of Penn State's 2013 recruiting class, wore each other's jersey.

Now, both are gone.

Breneman, from nearby Mechanicsburg, announced Thursday that he has ended his football career because of a chronic knee injury that affected his past two seasons. He leaves the program with a degree in business management, which he completed in three years, and an eye toward a career in politics.

The Cedar Cliff High School graduate joined Hackenberg, who declared himself eligible for the NFL draft, in leaving the program early, though for different reasons. Breneman departs with two years of eligibility, the product of a redshirt season in 2014 because of a knee injury that proved difficult to overcome.

"I want to thank Coach (Bill) O'Brien, Coach (James) Franklin, my teammates and the Penn State fans for the great memories over the last three years," Breneman said in a statement. "I have truly treasured my time as a Nittany Lion and I am confident that the Penn State experience has prepared me for the next phase of my life."

Breneman's father, Brian, graduated from Spring Grove High School in 1982.

Heralded recruit: Breneman and Hackenberg were two of the highest-ranked players of Penn State's 2013 class, with Breneman being considered among the nation's top tight ends. He was offered a scholarship by Joe Paterno, committed to Bill O'Brien and played for James Franklin.

As a freshman in 2013, Breneman blossomed late in the season and made one of its biggest plays. In the season-finale against Wisconsin, Breneman caught a 68-yard touchdown pass on Penn State's first possession, kickstarting the team's 31-24 upset victory. It remains the longest touchdown catch by a tight end in Penn State history.

But knee injuries were a constant through Breneman's last four years. He missed his senior season at Cedar Cliff, and his sophomore season at Penn State, because of injuries.

Breneman had knee surgery in 2014 and, last summer, said he felt better than he had in years. Dwight Galt, Penn State's director of performance enhancement, said Breneman ran the 40-yard dash in 4.63 seconds.

"He's back," Galt said then. The tight ended added at the time that, "for the first time in a while, I feel like I'm good at football again."

But the knee issues continued, and Breneman played in just two games this season: against Ohio State and Michigan State.

"I know that it was a difficult for Adam to step away from the game, but he felt it was the right time," Franklin said in a statement. "We are so proud of his work in the classroom, having earned his degree in three years. Adam is a special young man that has left his imprint on not only the Penn State football program, but the Penn State community at large. He has been a difference-maker at a very young age and has a bright future ahead of him."

Active in community: Off the field, Breneman served as vice president for Penn State's chapter of Uplifting Athletes and was named by athletic director Sandy Barbour to join Penn State's Athletic Director Leadership Institute.

In high school, Breneman started an initiative called "Catch the Cure for ALS," which benefitted family friend, and former Lafayette quarterback, Tom Kirchhoff.

Breneman's campaign raised more than $200,000 for Project ALS. In 2013, Breneman received the Prudential Community Spirit Award.

On Thursday, Breneman published an open letter for Pennlive.com, in which he thanked Penn State's coaches, medical staff and fans. He also said that, though his playing career was cut short, he "truly lived a dream at Penn State."

"Of course, I wish I could have contributed more on the field to this great school and to my teammates," Breneman wrote. "I want nothing more than to make my teammates, my coaches, my family, and the amazing Penn State fans proud. I am not sure what the next chapter of my life will entail, but I promise no matter where I am or what I am doing, I will never ever stop fighting for Penn State."

Johnson invited to Senior Bowl: Penn State defensive tackle Austin Johnson accepted his invitation to play in the 67th Reese’s Senior Bowl.

He joins teammates Jordan Lucas and All-American Carl Nassib as participants in the game. The trio will participate in the nation’s premier all-star contest on Saturday, Jan. 30. Kickoff is at 2:30 p.m. at Ladd-Peebles Stadium in Mobile, Ala. The NFL Network will televise the contest.

Johnson recently declared for the 2016 NFL Draft after earning All-Big Ten second team honors from the media and third team honors from the coaches this season. He also collected All-Big Ten first team accolades from BTN.com and ESPN.com.

Johnson finished with 78 tackles, which was third on the team. He also has 6.5 sacks and 15.0 tackles for loss this season. His 78 stops are third among defensive tackles in the Football Bowl Subdivision and the most by a Nittany Lion defensive lineman since Jimmy Kennedy had 87 stops in 2002.