Blue White Illustrated

May 2023

Penn State Sports Magazine

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8 M A Y 2 0 2 3 OPENING SHOT FULL SPEED AHEAD When Eli Manning visited Penn State last fall to film a segment for his ESPN+ show "Eli's Places," he inadvertently coined a catch phrase. Disguised as an aspiring walk-on quarterback named Chad Powers, the two-time Super Bowl MVP took part in the team's fall tryouts alongside dozens of le- gitimate roster candidates. Fully committing to the bit, Manning psyched himself up for the vari- ous drills by repeating his mantra: "Think fast, run fast." It didn't work. Those words may have begun turning up on T-shirts within days of the show's release, but they didn't prevent Manning from running a 5.49-second 40-yard dash. His time was nearly a full second slower than the one an actual Penn State quarterback — Sean Clifford — ran last month on the very same Holuba Hall turf. One of 13 Nittany Lions who participated in the team's Pro Day event March 23 before an audi- ence made up of NFL coaches and scouts, Clifford turned in a 4.57-second 40, along with a 6.87-sec- ond three-cone drill. For all the speed Clifford displayed — he equaled safety Ji'Ayir Brown in the 40 and nearly equaled receiver Mitchell Tinsley (4.52) — he is not expected to make the kind of swift ascent to the podium that Manning made on draft day in 2004 when he was selected first overall by the New York Giants. Clifford is instead going to have to wait and see. He was not invited to the NFL Combine in February, and while he spent the winter working out with New Jersey-based quar- terbacks coach Tony Racioppi, it is widely believed that he will end up as an undrafted free agent. A four-year starter and the Nittany Lions' all- time leader in passing yards and total offense, Clifford is unfazed. He showed throughout his col- lege career that he can think fast. He showed on Pro Day that he can run fast. Now, it's a matter of finding someone to give him a chance. "I just need to be in a camp," Clifford said. "I just need to be able to be in a practice with the pros. Because I know I'm a pro. I know I can come in and add value to a team. I know that more than anything. I still think that I can play in the NFL, 100 percent, provide to a team, win games, the same way I did here. "It's just [a matter of] being able to come out, talk to as many scouts as possible and get to know some coaches. It's about just being able to get around a bunch of teams, because I truly feel that no matter where I'm at, I could add a substantial amount of value." — Matt Herb PHOTO BY CRAIG HOUTZ/PENN STATE ATHLETICS

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