'This is not a joke': Penn State's Noah Cain knows true reality of COVID-19 pandemic

Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (TNS)
Iowa linebacker Djimon Colbert, left, loses his grasp of Penn State running back Noah Cain, right, as Cain runs in a touchdown during the second half of an NCAA college football game, Saturday, Oct. 12, 2019, in Iowa City, Iowa. (AP Photo/Matthew Putney)
Noah Cain

Anyone still having doubts about the impact of COVID-19 would be well-advised to stay further than the recommended social distance from Penn State running back Noah Cain.

The sophomore learned up close how real the disease is when his mother and three other relatives fought for their lives against COVID-19. Cain didn’t mince words when telling reporters why everyone needs to take all of the possible precautions to prevent spreading the virus.

“The coronavirus is a serious matter,” Cain told reporters via Zoom on Tuesday. “This is not a joke. I take it as disrespectful when people don’t take it seriously.”

Within six weeks, Cain witnessed his mom, an aunt, a cousin, and another relative go through complications from COVID-19. Each relative survived and is doing fine, according to Cain. But it was a tough time compounded by the fact that Cain’s family told him to stay away from his hometown because of how the disease affected his family.

“I’ve seen what it can do to you,” Cain said. “It’s scary because some days you don’t know if the person is going to make it. Watching my family go through it taught me how to take it more seriously.

“I am not going to lie to you all, at first, I was like, ‘It’s a virus, I’m not going to get it.’ But as time went on, where people, the loved ones close to me start getting it, I started taking it more seriously and taking the precautions that are needed.”

Looking to build on 2019: Cain cautiously enters 2020 looking to build on his a 2019 season that saw him rush for 443 yards on 84 carries with eight touchdowns. Even with the possibility of an exceptional season looming, Cain’s decision to return to University Park wasn’t easy.

“It was a difficult decision for me to come back,” Cain said. “It’s so easy to get it from touching somebody, being in the same room as them, especially on a plane. The best thing about being back in State College is it’s a small town, so not many people are here versus cities I was in before I came back.”

Cain split his time away from campus between Arizona and Texas and took his COVID-19 test on Monday after returning to school last Wednesday. If his results are negative, he will get closer to being able to join his teammates, who started group workouts this week at Holuba Hall.

Cain has a simple plan for when he’s hopefully able to practice again.

“It’s a big adjustment. You’ve got to keep your distance and mind your business, honestly,” he said. “Get your work in and get out. The last thing we need is for some people to start becoming too touchy, and then the next thing you know, we’re in a big mess with this virus because it’s so easy to get it.”

Cain remains optimistic that the season will happen. He’s also confident that his offseason will more than prepare him for anything that could happen on a football field.

“I know our season isn’t confirmed yet,” Cain said. “However, I think our doctors on our team are going to give us the best chance to play and keep as safe as possible.”