Blue White Illustrated

September 2021

Penn State Sports Magazine

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Page 19 of 75

2 0 S E P T E M B E R 2 0 2 1 W W W . B L U E W H I T E O N L I N E . C O M Alone at the top of Penn State's quarterback depth chart this fall, Sean Clifford looks to benefit from the hard lessons he learned during a difficult junior season O n a picturesque Friday morning in late July, fifth- year senior quarterback Sean Clifford stepped out of his cart and onto the fourth tee box at a State College-area golf course. His hair shaggy and shirt untucked, Clifford was the pic- ture of relaxation. With the beginning of Penn State's 2021 season still more than six weeks away and the nightmare of the team's 2020 performance long dead and gone, he found himself free to enjoy a moment of respite. Playing by himself that day, he was in a world that was unique and yet also somehow remarkably familiar. As the course lazily came alive in the first hours of day- light, maintenance crews easily outnumbering golfers, Clifford found himself alone and unbothered by anything more than a missed putt or errant tee shot. It was a brief window of literal isolation, the kind of moment he isn't likely to experience very often in the coming months as he prepares for his third season as the starting quarterback for one of the nation's most storied college football programs. But on the heels of a miserable junior season in which Clifford struggled throughout the team's 0-5 start and was benched briefly due to an avalanche of turnovers, the figu- rative feeling of isolation isn't completely foreign. The pres- sures that inevitably come with the job were exacerbated last season by the challenges of the COVID-19 pandemic, and that experience has left Clifford with an understanding of how it feels to be on a big stage, alone in the spotlight. Clifford poses during a photo shoot at Penn State earlier this year. The fifth- year senior is getting set for his third season as the N i tta ny L i o n s' sta r t i n g quarterback. PHOTO BY MARK SELDERS/ PENN STATE ATHLETICS NAT E BAU E R | NBAUER@BLUEWHITEONLINE.COM READY FOR HIS CLOSE-UP

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