Back to Camelot

Kevin Horne and Chris Buchignani have started writing “Back to Camelot: The Improbable Story of the 2005 Nittany Lions,” something that will hopefully become a full-length book. I’m following along with them as they share their writing process in public:

Explosive freshman. A smothering defense. A relentless senior captain at quarterback. And a legendary molder of men standing on the sidelines. When one of college football’s most storied programs teetered on the brink of irrelevance, one improbable, magical Autumn restored the trappings of America’s Game to the nation’s quintessential college town. From four downs at Indiana to three over times in Miami, this book presents the definitive account of Penn State’s 2005 football season.

I’ve known Chris and Kevin cumulatively for more than 15 years. They’ve adapted one of their talks for Black Shoe Diaries, since this year marks the 10th anniversary of that magical season. The whole thing is worth a read simply for the sake of being transported back in time, but here’s an excerpt:

Although no other head coach in college football – at the time, or maybe ever – could have survived the stretch of losing Paterno had just experienced, the well of patience and goodwill had nearly run dry. Calls for his retirement, voluntary or otherwise, were growing louder from without and within. Things looked bleak, to say the least.

That’s when Joe Paterno did something probably only Joe Paterno would think to do. At a total loss for what to do next –he’d remark during a press conference, in a rare unguarded moment, “The problem with my soul-searching is I couldn’t find my soul,” – the old Ivy League student of Western literature turned to Shakespeare.

On the Monday following the Northwestern loss, Joe canceled practice and sent everyone home. When coaches and players returned to the facility the next day, they didn’t scrimmage or work out or run drills. Coach Paterno gathered the team and read them Hamlet’s soliloquy: To be, or not to be?

It was a challenge – delivered in his own unique way – to his team, and maybe also to himself. Would the Nittany Lions lay down and give up in the face of overwhelming adversity, or take arms against a sea of troubles?

If you submitted what happened next as a movie script, it would be tossed out for being too unrealistic.

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