Quiet co-captain, gives the team an unexpected push

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Penn State was coming off another troubling week, yet overcame the suspensions of two defensive starters and the departure of a backup cornerback to bludgeon Oregon State by 31 points Saturday.

Senior safety and co-captain Anthony Scirrotto, no stranger to off-the-field issues, stood up in the locker room and addressed the team.

He had an important message.

"I just told them we got something special going on this team," Scirrotto said. "We've got players and coaching and everything it takes to be a great team. We have to not take it for granted, to be smart, responsible and just take care of each other.

"I feel like we've got what it takes to be a contender."

Scirrotto, the quietest co-captain on the team, caught a few of his fellow senior co-captains off-guard with his speech.

"It was great to see Anthony do that," center A.Q. Shipley said. "He's a great kid and a great leader. For him to step up and make a statement like that, make a point ... it was very impressive to see. I was very proud of the way he handled it.

"He got up in front of everybody and spoke with his heart and just let everybody know how he was feeling."

"He doesn't speak a lot ... when he talks, people listen," defensive end Josh Gaines said.

Scirrotto said his talk lasted maybe 30 to 45 seconds.

"I'm not usually a vocal guy," he said. "I usually don't speak much at all, actually. I leave that to the other captains and the other seniors. I just felt it from the heart and I was feeling it at the time and it just came out."

Scirrotto admitted before the start of preseason drills that he wasn't "mentally focused" on the field last year, "because I still had something lingering."

That something was a highly publicized incident April 1, 2007, in which Scirrotto and his girlfriend were involved in an altercation with a Penn State student that later led to a brawl involving a number of teammates at an off-campus apartment.

Scirrotto and five other Nittany Lions players were charged, but only Scirrotto and departed defensive tackle Chris Baker were convicted.

Five of the seven original charges against Scirrotto were dropped, but the trial was postponed several times, and it wasn't until February that the former first-team All-Big Ten safety finally accepted a lesser plea of misdemeanor defiant trespass.

Scirrotto said he's surprised at how well the Nittany Lions have been able to weather all the turmoil and distractions.

"I just think it's the type of people we have on this team," he said. "Obviously, people are going to make mistakes, and it happens all over the country, but, when you can pull together and fight through adversity, it just shows the character of the guys on the team.

"We're real focused. I know some things, during the season, you would rather not have to handle or have it distracting you, but that stuff happens. It just goes to show our character. All in all, it makes us closer as a team, too."

Penn State has had a long string of arrests, and the implication is that coach Joe Paterno is losing control of his program.

That bothers Scirrotto.

"For him to have to worry about things like that isn't fair to him," he said.

Ron Musselman can be reached at rmusselman@post-gazette.com . First Published September 11, 2008 4:00 AM


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