Player Spotlight: Drew Astorino
When the Penn State players take the field at Beaver Stadium Saturday afternoon for a showdown with Nebraska, they will be entering what most likely will be the most emotional game of their lives. Sixteen seniors will run through the tunnel for the final time. Senior safety Drew Astorino, who many consider to be the most underrated player on the defensive side of ball, is one of those seniors that will be honored on this historic day.
Astorino exemplifies the definition of a competitor. He is certainly not the biggest guy, not the fastest one either, but his instincts and football IQ are second to none. In his senior year at General McLane High School, Drew not only led the football and basketball teams to Pennsylvania state titles, but also scored the winning play in each championship game.
Following a redshirt freshman season, Astorino entered the 2008 as the back up to All-Big Ten safety Anthony Scirrotto. Along with earning All-Big Ten Academic honors, he also saw action in every game recording 39 tackles and two interceptions on the season.
With the graduation of Scirrotto, the starting free safety spot was Astorino’s to lose entering his sophomore season. Despite being named an All-Big Ten Honorable Mention selection, Astorino began to be the proverbial “whipping-boy” amongst many Penn State fans. Many complained that he was too small and slow to be an effective Division I safety.
The attacks on Astorino only enhanced during his junior season. He played much of the season with a separated shoulder that was relatively unknown by the general public. He still was an honorable mention all-conference selection with 70 tackles on the season, placing fourth on the team. Astorino also began to accept to role as the leader of the veteran Penn State secondary that led the Big Ten in pass defense.
This season, Astorino has silenced the critics and cemented himself as one of the top safeties in the Big Ten. In a secondary consisting of three other starting seniors, Astorino is described by his fellow teammates as the clear “quarterback” of the secondary. With the emergence of fellow safety Nick Sukay as a hard-hitting threat over the middle, Astorino has been able to roam around closer to the line of scrimmage and allow for run support. He’s currently third on the team with 49 tackles and has already recorded a career high of 5 tackles for loss.
It is no secret that this weekend’s game is much more than a football game. As news reports swirled and the status of Joe Paterno was uncertain on Wednesday, Astorino was the first member of the team to face the media. It was the first time since the allegations against Jerry Sandusky came to light that a member of the team had spoken to the press.
“First of all, we feel horrible for the victims and their families,” Astorino said Wednesday. “We think about them all the time. At the same time, the 125 guys on this team didn’t have anything to do with the last ten years.”
“I think we’ll just roll with the punches and I think we have to do what is best for the team. Whatever comes our way right now, we have to take in stride and move on.”
What’s lost in all of this is that this team is only two wins away from clinching a spot in the inaugural Big Ten championship game and Astorino is still a member of one of the top defenses in all of college football football. And there is still a game to be played on Saturday. If his press conference responses are any indication of the team’s mindset for Saturday, Astorino and the rest of the Nittany Lions will surely be ready for the game of their lives.
Matt Lawrence is a freshman majoring in broadcast journalism. To contact him, email firstname.lastname@example.org.
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