Talk to any veteran player, in pretty much any sport, and you get the same kind of hand-me-down wisdom: watch your film.
Watch any film. Watch all the film you can get your hands on.
But of course that’s easier said than done, because watching film is really like giving yourself more homework, and no college athlete really wants more homework in their life. Watching film takes a certain amount of commitment to do it correctly, and when practice is over and the meetings are done and the study hall finally lets out, you’re not thinking about booting up an iPad for an extra hour or two of work.
All the same, the message doesn’t change, the benefits don’t go away, the value doesn’t diminish and the veteran players don’t stop saying it.
Watch your film.
These days that sort of thing is a lot easier than it used to be. Penn State football players get film sent to them, and access to even more film is really just a few keystrokes away. Watch your teammates, watch former players, maybe even watch guys in the NFL. Just watch anything you can.
And when younger players start to buy into that, the value of film study. Then the rest starts to take care of itself.
“One of the biggest things for me [when] I was a freshman was just wanting to be a student of the game,” Penn State junior linebacker Jesse Luketa said. “I've been able to progress tremendously. I will go back - I was watching some film of [former defensive end and now graduate assistant] Deion Barnes...I try to pull some things that I like from him, or some things I like from [Jason] Cabinda and try to bring it to my own game. I feel like that it's only gonna allow me to be the best player, the best version of myself - once the game slows down psychologically, now it's as easy as stealing candy from a baby.”
On the field Luketa is only starting to make his biggest impact, but even in a relief role he has looked the part. There is a confidence to his game even if the snaps have yet to come in bulk. A lot of that is coaching, but being prepared means being committed and Luketa’s commitment to film has paid off when his number was finally called.
And that’s a message he has shared down the line like veteran players before him: watch your film.
“One thing I've been doing a lot more is watching film,” redshirt freshman linebacker Lance Dixon said. “Jesse always wants me to stay on my film so he’s kind of been a teacher in that aspect. It’s been good for me to be watching film just to get better at the mental part of the game.”
Of course Luketa isn’t the only one to spread the good word, former Penn State cornerback John Reid was notorious for his film study, allegedly logging more hours on Penn State’s film system than even some coaches. Reid ate it up, and throughout his long career he made play after play, was in the right place at the right time more often than not.
Even in his absence that work ethic is a thing of legend, and something players still in that cornerback and coverage room carry on to this day.
“Preparation,” sophomore corner Keaton Ellis said when asked about lessons learned from Reid. “Biggest thing I learned from him is film study, and you know that's a huge part of the mental side of the game and you know if you can prepare yourself mentally, everything comes easily on the field physically.”
Only time will tell how Luketa does in his expanded role, or how Dixon’s career pans out or how Ellis learned from an up-and-down freshman campaign. But one thing will hold true for all three: the more film they watch, the better off they’ll be.
And pretty soon they’ll be preaching the gospel too.