Celebrating its 25th anniversary, Penn State’s 1986 national championship team – the latter of coach Joe Paterno’s two titles – will be honored at halftime of Saturday’s game against Iowa. The 1986 Nittany Lions compiled a 12-0 season that was capped off with a 14-10 victory against No. 1 Miami in the Fiesta Bowl.
More than 60 members of that team are expected to be at Beaver Stadium today, including Shane Conlan, D.J. Dozier and Blair Thomas. However, one key player will be missing.
Fullback Steve Smith, one of Penn State’s four captains in 1986, is in his ninth year battling amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), also known as Lou Gehrig’s disease. Smith is bedridden and no longer able to walk or talk. His parents, Morris and Norma Smith, and his children, Dante and Jazmin, will represent him at the game.
The Penn State Football Letterman’s Club helped launch a campaign to raise money to support Smith’s medical expenses and Penn State will honor Smith as the "5th" captain of today’s game.
“He’ll always be our captain – he’s even helping guys these days,” said Rogers Alexander in a Penn State-issued press release. Alexander was Smith’s teammate in high school (DeMatha) and at Penn State. “He’s always encouraging, always helping.”
-- Jake Kaplan