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Penn State football welcomes back Trace McSorley, Saquon Barkley, other lettermen ahead of Pro Day

Happy Valley is crawling with former Penn State football stars this weekend.



Penn State football, Trace McSorley, Saquon Barkley, James Franklin, Sean Clifford, NFL Pro Day
Dec 30, 2017; Glendale, AZ, USA; Penn State Nittany Lions running back Saquon Barkley (26) celebrates a touchdown with quarterback Trace McSorley (9) against the Washington Huskies in the 2017 Fiesta Bowl at University of Phoenix Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

From spring practice to recruiting visits to Pro Day, it’s a busy time around the Penn State football program. Some notable faces are walking the halls of the Lasch Football Building this week, as well. On Thursday, James Franklin welcomed back Nittany Lion lettermen such as Trace McSorley, Pat Freiermuth, and Sean Clifford, with more, including Saquon Barkley, set to arrive for the weekend.

Penn State football lettermen return to campus ahead of Pro Day

On Friday, Penn State’s latest NFL hopefuls will work out for league scouts at the Nittany Lions’ annual Pro Day. But Thursday afternoon, the Holuba Hall turf was crawling with plenty of current NFL talent.

Several Penn State football lettermen who are now in the NFL were back in Happy Valley, including Pittsburgh Steelers tight end Pat Freiermuth, Green Bay Packers quarterback Sean Clifford, and Washington Commanders cornerback Tariq Castro-Fields. Others in attendance, like Trace McSorley and DaeSean Hamilton, are looking for revivals to their professional careers.

The cameras caught these former Nittany Lion stars working out with Theo Johnson and standouts from the 2023 roster. Johnson flashed at the NFL Combine two weeks ago, finishing first or second among tight ends in every event.

James Franklin discusses importance of welcoming back Nittany Lion lettermen

More than simply a nice reunion, bringing former Nittany Lions back to campus serves a purpose for the Penn State football program. This week, James Franklin touched on the value that these visiting lettermen have when discussing Saquon Barkley and his recent homecoming to play for the Philadelphia Eagles.

“Obviously, we like our lettermen and our former players, especially the ones that are the guys in the NFL, to try to get back as much as they can to campus to have an influence over our current roster, to be supportive and be on the sideline for games,” Franklin said Tuesday. “Obviously, his [Barkley’s] schedule, like most NFL players, is crazy and hectic, but it helps [being in Pennsylvania]. You look at the guys that we got in San Francisco. It’s just not easy for them to get back here.

“When you are right down the road in Philadelphia or Pittsburgh or wherever it may be, that helps. That helps with them being around this fan base and around our team, and they’re beloved. I also love the fact that they can come and have influence.”

At his introductory press conference in Philadelphia on Thursday, Saquon Barkley noted that he will be making the trip to Happy Valley for Friday’s Pro Day.

Beyond supporting their fellow lettermen who are looking to start their own NFL careers, James Franklin has plans to put these former Penn State football players to work this weekend. On Tuesday, Franklin noted that a few lettermen, specifically Trace McSorley and Grant Haley, were coming back to talk to the current roster about the Nittany Lions’ 2016 Big Ten Championship-winning team.

“One of the things that’s happening this weekend is Trace and Grant are coming back to talk to our team about that 2016 Big Ten Championship team,” Franklin stated. “And [we] try to get these guys back as much as we possibly can. Selfishly, I think there’s a ton of value for Penn State football, and I know for our players.”

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Matt is a co-owner and Editor in Chief of Basic Blues Nation. Launched in 2022, Basic Blues Nation is one of the fastest-growing websites covering all Penn State athletics, with over 3.5 million readers in 2023. Matt is also a credentialed member of the Penn State football beat, and is a member of the Football Writers Association of America.


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