His teammates say you can always hear Jason Cabinda talking or whistling or moving with enthusiasm and energy on and off the football field as a leader at Penn State. But those aren’t the only areas in which he has their respect.
Social issues are another subject that Cabinda is vocal and passionate about, discussing them often with his teammates. He said social media has done “a good job of bringing attention on the issues to a ton of people.” He has more than 10,000 followers on Twitter and about 4,100 friends on Facebook.
“I think it’s important to be aware, important to be informed,” Cabinda, the Nittany Lions’ hard-hitting 234-pound senior middle linebacker, said Wednesday. “I think that’s our duty. That’s kind of what you’ve got to do to be informed about the issues that are going on and can’t be blind to them.
“You can’t put yourself in your little hole, your own world of football and school and kind of not know what’s going on in the rest of the country and the rest of the world. So I think that’s important.”
Cabinda said he didn’t have a particular influence growing up in speaking his mind, and that his evolution as an “opinionated, strong-willed person … is kind of my personality and just who I am as a person.”
Cabinda, who said racial equality is a particular area of interest with him, said he tries to consider all sides of an issue before saying anything.
“I normally try to look pretty deep into something,” he said. “But I don’t post anything being afraid of backlash. To me, that doesn’t matter. If I choose to post something, it’s because I have a very strong opinion about it regardless of what someone else might say.”
Nittany Lions head coach James Franklin has been with Cabinda since the Flemington, N.J., native started out as a freshman and is proud of how he has progressed.
“Jason is a guy that has very strong opinions and beliefs, which I like,” he said. “That’s also why he’s such a strong leader because when he says things, he says it with conviction because he’s thought it through.
“He’s in leadership positions on campus as well. Take athletics and school out of it and just other experiences on campus, he’s been great. He’s a guy that, you go in meetings, he’s locked in. He’s an active listener, an active learner.”
Cornerback Grant Haley, a fellow captain who started at Penn State at the same time as Cabinda, said his teammate is taking advantage of the platform he has.
“He’s not afraid to voice his opinion and I respect him for that,” Haley said. “I think our team is such a close and diverse team that people understand what’s going on in the world and a lot of different views. So I think it’s one of those things where we have good dialogues between the team and the coaching staff. With Jason, I think he does a good job being able to voice his opinion in a correct and respectful manner.”
On the field, as the fourth-ranked Nittany Lions continue preparations for Saturday’s home game against Pittsburgh, Cabinda said his job is to bring a positive attitude and energy.
“Football, it’s a long season,” he said. “Practices can get redundant and you can kind of fall into that trip about it being just another day. But when you’re able to consistently bring energy, making guys excited for every single day and taking advantage of every day is important.”