PJ Mustipher hopes Penn State football can be leading voice in fight for unity

Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (TNS)
P.J. Mustipher

As counties in Pennsylvania start to approach becoming open, fans are understandably becoming more interested in the respite the sports world provides.

Penn State supporters are likely keen to know how Brent Pry plans to roll with a defense that was eighth nationally in scoring defense by allowing 16 points a game and had a rush defense that allowed 95.0 yards per game for a fifth-place ranking in 2019.

Smart football observers know that while cornerbacks and safeties like Tariq Castro-Fields, Lamont Wade, Marquis Wilson, Keaton Ellis, and Joey Porter Jr., are essential, if the passing defense is going to step up after allowing 7.4 yards per pass attempt and 12.2 yards per completion, they'll have to be better on the defensive line.

If there are going to be football games in 2020, junior defensive tackle PJ Mustipher will have to be great for Penn State live it's best football life. The Maryland native has shown flashes with 5.5 tackles for loss, two forced fumbles, and one sack during his 25 games played for the Nittany Lions.

World beyond Beaver Stadium: There will be time to discuss how new defensive line coach John Scott will get the best out of Mustipher. However, the world beyond Beaver Stadium looms larger. Angst in America is boiling with a confluence of factors: police violence against black people, poverty, protests, and a pandemic that forces us all to pay attention.

Mustipher believes that his team can lead the conversation down the road of healing and restoration.

"If all the guys in locker rooms all over the country and Penn State football can start this conversation, and lead this conversation, then I think change can happen everywhere," Mustipher said during a virtual press conference on Tuesday. "We have so many different diverse backgrounds and guys come from all over the place."

Thorpe's speech: On Sunday, offensive lineman C.J. Thrope gave an impassioned speech in a rally honoring the life of George Floyd. The death of Floyd in Minnesota last week has fueled anger and protests all over the world, and Mustipher discussed what it meant to hear his friend speak with such passion.

"C.J. being the catalyst to start this conversation," Mustipher said. "He stepped out there. It's not easy to do that and speaks volumes to the leadership we have in this locker room."

Mustipher told reporters that he doesn't want the conversation around Floyd's death to stop any time soon.

"I don't want this to be a one week or a one-month thing," Mustipher said. "I want this thing to be all year round. I want us to be talking. Twenty years down the road, I don't want kids to feel like they don't have a voice.

"I want us to be doing stuff in the community. What can we do to change things? I want us never to forget this feeling we have right now because it's so important."

More pressing issues: Eventually, Mustipher will run through the tunnel and on to the field. The band will play. Even if there aren't fans, there hopefully will be football games. Every play will get scrutinized, but today, there are more pressing issues. Mustipher doesn't want people to forget what's happening now.

"It sucks that we have to go through this, but it's important that we remember this feeling we're having," Mustipher said, “we continue to move forward as a country, and you know, just put ourselves in the best position to be in a country where unity is key."

Mustipher knows that changing over 400 years of racial disparity will take more than words. However, he has a unique position of influence as a football player at a school with national championship ambitions. With that privilege comes great responsibility, and he embraces accountability with his words and deeds.

"I want to be a representative of what to do for kids who want to be in my position," Mustipher said. "I want to do it the right way."