STATE COLLEGE — Penn State held its annual Lift for Life event on Saturday at Holuba Hall, and while its main purpose was to raise money for the rare disease community via Uplifting Athletes, it was, as it always is, so much more than that.
A kids clinic was put on by the freshmen, which gave them a taste of the community service spirit that their head coach, James Franklin, preaches at every opportunity while giving the area’s youth a chance to meet some new role models.
Then, of course, there was the upperclassmen derby, if you will, of weight lifting events ranging from a sled pull to bench press competitions and a tire flip before the annual tug-o-war battle between position groups closed things out. That led to an autograph session, which put smiles on the faces of those on the giving and receiving end of signatures from their favorite Lions.
The donating that took place before it all began is at the heart of the day, though, and it continues online at the Uplifting Athletes website. As of midday Saturday, no total fundraising total had been announced, so stay tuned to PennLive for updates.
Generally speaking, around $100,000 is raised yearly to help fight a wide range of diseases and illnesses through a charitable workout that started with the Lions back when receiver Scott Shirley dreamt the idea up 15 years ago. The concept has now spread to college football programs across the country, and it’s almost a yearly rite of passage for each Nittany Lion player before camp and the regular season arrive.
“We grind through summer training, we hit Lift for Life, and then we keep rolling,” Hershey native and tackle Andrew Nelson said.
Scenes from Penn State’s Lift for Life
“It’s always an important date. We have some fun, do something for a great cause, and then get ready for camp.”
The summer drills leading up to the Sept. 2 opener with Akron at Beaver Stadium will start in roughly two weeks, which makes this one of the last team-organized care free events of the summer. It’s more than just a breather from the grind of grueling summer workouts, though; it’s also a chance to fulfill Franklin’s desire for community service early and often over every player’s career.
“I thought the atmosphere was really cool,” lead strength trainer Dwight Galt said. “A lot of the fundraising was centered around the total number of [bench press] reps each athlete could get.”
It was that event that was the star attraction on Saturday, as the crowd showered the building with oohs and ahhs as star running back Saquon Barkley bench pressed 225 pounds, the same weight that is used at the NFL Combine, 30 times, while guard Steven Gonzalez put up what is believed to be an event-best 38 reps.
“Today is an important day for team bonding, everyone coming in, and showing all the hard work they put in,” quarterback Trace McSorley said.
As the event ended, the players mingled with fans and signed one final autograph or gave a passing high five to a youngster. Another Lift for Life was in the books, meaning another season is closer to getting ready to begin.
Saquon Barkley highlight reel from Penn State’s Lift for Life