Local Penn State players thinking positive despite scandal

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STATE COLLEGE, Pa. —

The No. 1 chant at Penn State for generations has been "we are Penn State." After the NCAA handed down sanctions against the university following the Jerry Sandusky child abuse scandal, Sports Illustrated ran a cover story under the title "We Were Penn State," but the 2012 Nittany Lions said SI got it wrong.

"Absolutely, it's 'we are Penn State.' Sports Illustrated, things like that doesn't really mean anything to us," junior cornerback Jesse Della Valle told Channel 11's Bill Phillips. "We're one team, one university and we are going to come together and play this season for the university and the people around us."

The man leading the Nittany Lions into battle this year is Bill O'Brien, who is building his program on core values.

"Strong relationships are built on trust and honesty and telling the truth," O'Brien said.

His players have bought in.

"Coach O'Brien's a great coach," junior linebacker Mike Hull said. "I have so much respect for him, and he has done everything right so far. He's been honest."

As well as being honest, O'Brien is making changes from adding names to the players' uniforms to a blue patch intended to help raise child abuse awareness.

"I think it's great," Della Valle said. "He wants the world to know, you know, who the players are that stuck around and stood up for Penn State, so that's what the names are all about. As far as the ribbons, I think that is a good thing to put on the jersey as well."

The Nittany Lions have a number of players from western Pennsylvania, and they all gave similar responses to why they stayed in Happy Valley.

"The bond I have with my teammates here," Paul Jones, a junior quarterback, said. "I felt like it would be hard to get that anywhere else, and second, this coaching staff believes in us and I believe in them."

Penn State will open the 2012 against Ohio University on Sept. 1.