The gathering outside the Lasch Building cheered and clapped as the players arrived — greeted at the door of the football building by Sue Paterno, wife of the late Joe Paterno.
And fans lined the walkway from the Lasch Building to Holuba Hall as players moved to the indoor practice facility for one of their first voluntary workouts together since the sanctions that followed the Freeh report into the university’s handling of the Jerry Sandusky child sex abuse scandal.
Sandusky, Penn State’s former defensive coordinator, was convicted June 22 on 45 of 48 counts of abuse.
“After all the things that have happened, it’s good to see the community coming together,” State College resident Gene Tyworth said amid cheers and band fight songs.
The “Rise and Rally” event filled the area behind the football building with fans waving signs and clapping each time someone from the team arrived.
The university closed McKean Road to accommodate the event.
Police Chief Tyrone Parham said, “We expected a couple thousand people.”
State College resident Cindy Bittner said despite the early hour, “I wouldn’t miss it.”
She added: “I’m excited for the team.”
Bob Nicely, of Boalsburg, a retired Penn State professor and associate dean with the College of Education, attended the rally with his wife, Donna, and several friends.
“When we saw the crowds of people flowing in from multiple directions simultaneously, it was surreal,” Bob Nicely said. “I was choked up.”
“This is Penn State,” said Lisa Benson of Boalsburg. “People don’t get that.”
The crowd included many Penn State students.
“When I got here, I was surprised and pleased with the turnout,” said Rachel Isaacs, a Penn State junior from Pittsburgh.
Penn State junior Olivia Francois, also a junior from Pittsburgh, said: “This is what Penn State pride is all about. We got up early and came out to support the team together.”
Sponsors of the event included Old State Clothing, Nittany Bank and Dunkin’ Donuts.
Sweeney was thrilled with the turnout at the rally, which was organized in four days.
“My expectations were far exceeded because of the limited amount of time we had and the fact that it was on a Tuesday morning,” Sweeney said. “But in the same breath, I must say that it doesn’t surprise me that Penn State would rally like this.”
Penn State begins preseason practices next Monday.