Penn State: Fullbacks Suhey, Zordich are living legacies
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UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. -- Penn State's top two fullbacks are products of the father-son pipeline.
Starter Joe Suhey and backup Michael Zordich are among the 25 father-son combinations who have played for Hall of Fame coach Joe Paterno entering this season.
Suhey comes from a football family that is almost as recognizable as the Nittany Lions' mascot.
His father, Matt, was a running back who gained 2,818 yards for the Lions from 1976-79. He spent 10 years in the NFL with the Chicago Bears, where he earned a Super Bowl ring in 1985 while serving as the lead blocker for Hall of Famer Walter Payton.
Suhey's great-grandfather, Bob Higgins, was Penn State's second All-American and served as head coach from 1930-48. His grandfather, Steve Suhey, was a three-year letterman at guard who earned All-American honors as a senior in 1947.
Two uncles, Larry and Paul, played for the Lions in the 1970s and a first cousin, Kevin, was a backup quarterback and special teams player from 2005-07. Suhey's mother, Donna, also is a Penn State graduate.
On top of that, when Paterno came to Penn State as an assistant to Rip Engle in 1950, he rented a bedroom in the Suhey house.
"I don't know all of the details and all of the connections, but it's really been neat to not only follow my dad to Penn State, but to play for the same coach he did," Joe Suhey said. "It is extremely unusual, but very interesting.
"Every now and then, we'll compare notes about Joe's intensity and his toughness. Not a whole lot has changed over the years."
Zordich's dad, Mike, was an All-American strong safety who played for Penn State from 1982-85. He spent 12 seasons in the NFL with the New York Jets, Phoenix Cardinals and Philadelphia Eagles and now is a defensive quality control coach for the Eagles.
Zordich's mom, Cynthia, was a Penn State cheerleader.
"I guess you could say my family bleeds blue and white," the younger Zordich said.
Suhey, 6 feet 1 and 227 pounds, is a redshirt junior. Zordich, 6-1, 236, is a redshirt sophomore.
Suhey was a standout high school football player at Loyola Academy in Illinois, where he also played basketball with Michael Jordan's two sons, Jeff and Marcus.
After redshirting as a freshman at Penn State, Suhey participated in 172 snaps in 2008 on offense and special teams. He started two games last year and played a season-high 44 snaps against LSU in the Capital One Bowl.
He finished the season with 22 carries for 68 yards. He added 21 receptions for 186 yards and one touchdown.
"I am a pretty low-key guy," Suhey said. "I try to stay under the radar. I just try to come to practice and work hard every day and do what the coaches want."
Zordich, who helped lead Cardinal Mooney High School in Youngstown, Ohio, to three consecutive Ohio Class IV state championship games, has made more of a name for himself off the field than on it.
He was charged with driving under the influence of alcohol and underage drinking last August following an incident at 3:25 a.m. on campus after university police saw him driving without his headlights on. Zordich's blood-alcohol content was .19, more than twice the state's legal limit of .08.
In April, he was cited for underage drinking again after police reported seeing him lose his balance and stumble into the front of an officer's vehicle.
Zordich, who moved from linebacker to fullback last season, when he recorded three tackles and two kickoff returns for 28 yards while playing 55 snaps, said he feels fortunate to still be on the team.
"I absolutely thought I might be gone," he said. "I messed up. And it was my fault. It was on me. I am very, very thankful that coach Paterno let me back on the team and let me have another shot at it.
"My dad, he was upset with me, too. He expected more out of me and I expected more. It was a mistake that I made that I've got to live with."
First Published August 15, 2010 12:17 am