Following family tradition, Suhey excels with Nittany Lions

Jonah Rosenblum

Joe Paterno learned a pretty good recruiting trick back when he was an assistant coach at Penn State.

According to Paterno, his boss, head coach Charles A. “Rip” Engle, used to tell him that recruiting was as simple as finding the right fit.

“He used to say when I’d come back all upset, maybe I was trying to recruit some hot shot,” Paterno recalled. “He would say, ‘Hey Joe, don’t worry about the guys we lose, only make sure that the guys you bring in here belong here, and they’re coming here for the right reasons.”

Senior running back Joe Suhey is the epitome of this recruiting philosophy. Indeed, it would be hard to find a better match between player and school.

Nittany Lions football runs in Suhey’s blood. Suhey’s father was a standout running back at Penn State, finishing his career with 2,818 rushing yards, the 10th-highest total in school history. His grandfather was a guard at Penn State. His great-grandfather was the second All-American in Penn State history and also coached the Nittany Lions from 1930 to 1948.

Given that context, it was hardly a surprise when Suhey decided to attend Penn State.

“It probably would have been a bigger story for me going somewhere else than me going to Penn State,” Suhey said. “You definitely grow up with it, but there was no pressure from my family to go to Penn State.”

It didn’t hurt that his cousin, Kevin, was a quarterback and special teams player for Penn State from 2005 to 2007. When Joe visited his cousin, the pair would go out together. The younger cousin realized he wanted to continue the legacy.

“I was definitely comfortable at Penn State,” Suhey said. “Being able to go out with (Kevin), the small things, the nightlife, it’s a fun place to be. Great environment, great football program. It had everything you could want out of college football.”

Suhey also cited the football-crazed atmosphere of University Park, Penn., as a reason for attending Penn State. Frequently cited as one of the top Gameday atmospheres in all of college football, Beaver Stadium and its 106,572 fans speak for themselves, according to Suhey and senior wide receiver Derek Moye.

“It’s definitely crazy,” Moye said. “It’s one of the better atmospheres in college football to see. It’s hard to put into words.”

To play in the fishbowl that is Beaver Stadium is a special honor for a kid who grew up going to games there, and although he might never be a star, Suhey has more than made his contribution to the University. In 2010, Suhey was seventh on the team in receptions, ran the ball several times, was an outstanding blocker and also excelled on special teams. This season, he has been up to his usual tricks, in addition to recording a rushing touchdown and a receiving touchdown. Statistically, it’s Suhey’s best year yet.

It’s also his last year, and looking back, Suhey is nothing if not grateful for the opportunity he has been given.

“My grandma lives two miles from campus so I’ve been coming to Penn State games and having Thanksgiving in State College for my entire life,” Suhey said. “You grow up watching Joe Paterno and you think I’ll never have the opportunity to play for him, and then in high school, thinking I might have the opportunity to play for him and I’m so glad I have.”

Suhey knows that he is likely the last in his family to have that chance. With the veteran coach nearing his 85th birthday, this might be the last season in which a Suhey plays for Paterno. Although with Paterno, one never knows. When asked how he would react if he someday had a child and that kid played for Paterno, Suhey couldn’t help but laugh:

“That’s when he knows he has to get out.”

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