Shareef Miller’s idea wasn’t unique, but it was first.
Thursday afternoon, coming to grips with the realization that an injury to fellow defensive end Torrence Brown in the Nittany Lions’ win against Georgia State would keep his teammate out for the rest of the season, Miller touched base with his position coach Sean Spencer. He wanted to wear Brown’s No. 19 to pay tribute to a teammate who has served as a friend and leader among the Nittany Lions.
“I asked Coach Spencer Thursday and he told me to text Coach Franklin, I texted Coach Franklin Thursday night and then that Friday in the team meeting, he told me I could wear it,” said Miller. “It's an honor for me to wear his number because we're so close, and since I came to Penn State and he took me under his wing, he's like a big brother to me. It was real good for me to wear that number.”
Miller made the most of his opportunity to pay respect to his close friend and teammate.
Finishing third on the team with five tackles, Miller led with Marcus Allen with a pair of tackles for a loss, including a critical safety bringing down Akrum Wadley in the end zone midway through the second quarter.
For Miller, performing at the best of his abilities on this specific night, in this specific circumstance, was extremely important with Brown weighing on his mind.
“It means a lot to me,” said Miller. “Obviously he wasn't out there tonight and I wanted to wear his number to honor him and play for him tonight. I feel like I did that. I gave it my all for him.”
Miller wasn’t the only Nittany Lion to offer up a heartfelt commendation of Brown following the dramatic 21-19 win.
Though head coach James Franklin wouldn’t go so far as to elaborate on the report from ESPN’s Chris Fowler during the game broadcast that Brown would be lost for the season due to the apparent knee injury, he did appear to choke up somewhat when discussing what the loss meant. Both to the team as well as personally, it’s one Franklin said will have a deep impact.
“Torrence is a guy who is universally respected in our program, from a leadership standpoint, from a production standpoint, just the whole package,” said Franklin. “He’s a great friend, he’s great person, he’s a great teammate. He has tremendous amount of respect in that lock room so a bunch of guys wanted to honor him tonight.”
Ultimately coming away with the last-second touchdown to Juwan Johnson as time expired to secure the win, running back Saquon Barkley said the performance was one of many the Nittany Lions will dedicate to their injured teammate through the course of the rest of the season.
“Torrence Brown, he’s a great football player but a better person. Someone you always can talk to,” said Barkley. “Yeah, it sucks but he knows that we’re going to come out and play every single game for him, we’re going to play with our hearts for him. We love him and the way we can show our love and respect is going out there every single rep and trying to play our hearts out.”