Senior offensive linemen won't second-guess decisions to return to Penn State
When school was in session, Michal Menet’s days were structured almost like he was back on Penn State’s campus.
“You can roll out of bed, make some breakfast, sit down and do your class,” the Nittany Lions’ fifth-year senior center said Wednesday.
But the semester has ended, exams are finished, the calendar has turned to mid-May and the games are scheduled to start in less than four months.
Reality is getting ready step into the situation, with the season depending on whether the coronavirus is under control this summer. Already, 23 California schools, including San Jose State (the third opponent on Penn State’s schedule), have said their students won’t return to campus in the fall.
Will there even be a game in Beaver Stadium on Sept. 19?
And what does that uncertainty mean to Menet and his buddy at right tackle, graduate senior Will Fries (both of whom could have turned to the NFL and watched this mess from afar)?
Not much, really.
If they are second-guessing their decision to return to Penn State this year under the circumstances, it wasn’t evident in their answers to reporters’ questions Wednesday on a Zoom conference call.
Asked what it might be like to play in an empty stadium, with no students on campus, Menet said, “I’m really trying to not think about it.”
“My opinion doesn’t matter because there are tons of health care professional people that do that stuff for a living. It’s definitely a little bit weird, but at the end of the day, we just want to play football and wait until somebody gives us the OK to do that.”
He said he is “definitely” not second-guessing his decision.
“I put a lot of time into it,” he said. “It was really an easy decision. There are things I know I need to work on to become a better player.”
Said Fries, when asked if he wonders what might have been if he decided to enter the NFL Draft: “Not at all. All this craziness has nothing to do with it.”
Virtual meetings: So what’s next for two of the leaders of Penn State’s offensive line?
Until they are called back to campus, Menet and Fries will continue to attend all the virtual meetings demanded by coach James Franklin and line coach Phil Trautwein. They also consult with quarterback Sean Clifford.
“He was all excited,” Menet said of Clifford. “He bought a whiteboard and was drawing things up on it.”
Menet visits his uncle’s basement where he lifts weights and cuts the grass at his parent’s home in Birdsboro, a tiny Pennsylvania town along the Schuylkill River.
Home-cooked meals: No offense to those men and women supplying Penn State’s training table back in State College, but Fries doesn’t mind getting “good, home-cooked meals” at his parents’ house in Cranford, N.J.
“I haven’t been home this long in a while,” he said.
Menet said his parents make sure meals are loaded with proteins and carbohydrates. He said there can be as many as three dozen eggs in the refrigerator.
Wisniewski visit: Both players enjoyed the recent virtual visit with former Penn State offensive lineman Stefen Wisniewski, a Central Catholic graduate who joined the Pittsburgh Steelers this year after winning Super Bowls with the Philadelphia Eagles and Kansas City Chiefs.
“He’s a Penn State guy through and through,” Fries said. “It was awesome to hear his perspective. I took a ton of notes on all the stuff he had to say.”
Maintaining tradition: Most important, Menet and Fries, as seniors, are responsible for maintaining the tradition of accountability started by previous Penn State offensive linemen. Menet said anyone can call out another player, if necessary.
“If a freshman walks on campus and he sees me doing something I shouldn’t — which you wouldn’t because I pride myself on not doing that,” he said, “he 100% has the right to step up and say something to me, and I’d be open about it.
“That’s always been the mentality since I’ve been here.”