Blue White Illustrated

September 2021

Penn State Sports Magazine

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7 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 BY LOU PRATO L O U P R A T O @ C O M C A S T. N E T T he historic stand for civil rights that Wally Triplett and his Penn State football teammates made in 1946 and '47 is about to become a movie. The scheduled release date is two to three years away. How- ever, a script is nearing completion by two experienced Los Angeles-area screenwriters, and the producers include Penn State graduates. When he became Penn State's first Black varsity player in 1945, and the first Black letterwinner the following year, Triplett could never have envisioned that his life would one day become a movie. In that 1946 season, the virtually all-white team re- fused to play a late-November game at segregated Miami with- out its two Black teammates, Triplett and war veteran Dennie Hoggard. The next year, with most of its front line and star players returning, Penn State integrated the Cotton Bowl. There were only four New Year's Day games at the time, and only the Rose Bowl had been integrated, dating back to the 1916 game. The first Cotton Bowl was played in 1937, two years after the creation of the Orange and Sugar bowls, and those latter bowls didn't integrate until their 1953 and '56 games, respectively. Mark Rodgers, a 1986 Penn State graduate with a degree in petroleum engineering, is the brainchild behind the Triplett movie. He had never heard of Triplett until attending the Wis- consin game on Nov. 10, 2018, two days after the death of the former Nittany Lion great. Penn State honored Triplett with a video presentation on Beaver Stadium's two large scoreboards. Rodgers began researching Triplett and learning more from other Penn State alumni. Joe Battista was one of those people. Battista had graduated three years earlier, but they apparently didn't know each other. Battista is well-connected in State College and in the col- legiate and professional ice hockey communities. He played on the outstanding club hockey team at Penn State and then coached the team for 19 years, from 1987 through 2005. After stepping away from coaching, he served in a number of university positions related to fund-raising, including work in the athletic department and Smeal College of Business. He is the man who convinced another Penn State petroleum engi- neering grad, Terry Pegula, to donate more than $100 million to launch NCAA men's and women's hockey teams at PSU and build them a state-of-the-art playing facility. John Barbender, a mutual friend of the two men, put Rodgers in touch with Battista, who has continued to maintain his per- manent residence in the State College area since his graduation. Battista and Rodgers met in early November 2019, shortly after Rodgers decided that his company, More Productions, would make the Triplett movie. Based in northern Virginia, More Productions has been involved with other movies and creative projects that included such personages as Martin Scorsese, Wil- lie Nelson and Bono, the U2 front man. The still-unnamed Triplett movie is being developed by the company's Nittany Film LLC, which was incorporated specifi- cally for the film. Mandi Hart, the co-owner and president of More Productions, is the manager of Nittany Film LLC. Because of my previous research into the history of ice hockey at Penn State and my expertise about Wally Triplett, including a book project, Battista put me in contact with Rodgers and Hart. They hired me as the consultant for the movie, with screen credit, and offered to help me find a publisher for my Triplett book for possible release in conjunction with the movie. My contract prohibits me from disclosing any parts of the script. HOLLYWOOD ENDING An upcoming movie will celebrate the impactful life of trailblazing Penn State great Wally Triplett In 1948, Triplett and teammate Dennie Hoggard become the first Black players to take the field in the Cotton Bowl. Triplett (above right) scored a touchdown in Penn State's 13-13 tie against Southern Methodist. PHOTO COURTESY PENN STATE ATHLETICS

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