Penn State Football: As Blue White Weekend Celebrates 2016 Season, Don't Forget That Punter From Georgia
If you were going to make a list of players who Penn State owed much of its Big Ten championship season to, it wouldn't be too far down that list where you would find Blake Gillikin's name.
Remember that upset win over Ohio State? Gillikin saved a botched punt attempt in the back of the endzone, the difference between an Ohio State touchdown and a Buckeye safety.
That comeback win over Indiana? Gillikin saved another high snap with a punt on the run.
Against Michigan? Penn State didn't win, but after a drive that backed Penn State up against its own endzone, Gillikin boomed a punt 50+ yards to give the Nittany Lion defense a chance.
In the Big Ten title game? Gillikin launched two key punts 45 and 53 yards.
It might not be a flashy job, but rest assured it's an important one.
Which is why Penn State fans gave Gillikin a standing ovation in his very first game as he blasted his way to a 47 yard average and a 58-yard moon shot. After years of struggling special teams, Penn State finally had its punting savior. Albeit, Penn State's offense hasn't needed too many punts, but when the Nittany Lions have called on Gillikin he has given them exactly what they needed.
"Probably the two in the Big Ten championship," Gillikin said after practice on Wednesday, picking up the punt he's the most proud of. "That was a new environment, I mean playing for a championship is a big deal. Being able to hit two good punts and help the defense out a lot in the first quarter and then getting to sit on the bench and watch the offense go to work, those are probably the two punts that I'll remember most."
Looking back though Gillikin remembers that first punt in Beaver Stadium, specifically shaking on the sidelines as the moment drew near.
"There's nothing like playing at Beaver Stadium," Gillikin added. "It was pretty nerve-racking. I was shaking on the sideline and shaking when I was walking out. Didn't really calm down until I ran back to the sideline after the punt. I guess after the first punt I settled in a little bit."
And settled in he did, as noted above, Gillikin has become one of Penn State's most important assets in game management averaging just over 42 yards a punt.
So as the likes of Trace McSorley, Grant Haley, Marcus Allen and Saquon Barkley take the field on Saturday for the Blue White game they will get the biggest cheers.
But don't forget the blonde haired Georgia native who had his fair share of season-changing moments himself.