“IF YOU CAN BELIEVE IT, THE MIND CAN ACHIEVE IT.”
Carl Nassib: A Real-Life ‘Rocky’
- Updated: November 16, 2015
In the stable of Hollywood story lines, one of the most reliable is the understudy getting his or her chance when the star falls down or is suddenly bedridden. It’s the foot soldier becoming Patton, the reserve infielder winning the World Series game. It’s “Rocky” and “Hoosiers.”
And it does happen in college football. In fact, it happened this year in State College, Pennsylvania on the campus of Penn State University.
Cast in the starring role is a tall, lanky senior named Carl Nassib. He had a mere 7 total tackles all of last season. He didn’t start a single game. In fact, he never even started a game in high school!
But thanks to countless hours in the weight room, Carl Nassib filled out his body and came into his senior season with 275 pounds packed on a 6-7 frame.
The results would make any Hollywood screenwriter jealous.
Nassib not only earned a starting job, but through the first 10 weeks of the season led the entire nation in both sacks (15.5, a Penn State record) and tackles for losses (19.5).
That impressive emergence earned Nassib a place as one of the semi-finalists for the annual Lott IMPACT Trophy, an award that recognizes both performance on the field and off the field.
Nassib excels in the classroom, too, having earned Academic All-Big Ten honors twice in his career. A biology major, he is set to graduate next month and has plans to go to medical school. Of course, the NFL might have something to say about that.
Yes, he walked on at Penn State, redshirted one year, saw no action the second. He weighed but 218 pounds when he first arrived.
“First of all,” said his older brother, Ryan, the backup quarterback for the New York Giants “none of the smaller schools wanted him, either.”
Ron Vanderlinden, an assistant at Penn State at the time remembered Nassib from high school: “I saw a tall, rangy body that had a knack,” said Vanderlinden, who now coaches at Air Force. “He had good timing. He batted down some balls and made plays that showed toughness and wherewithal. He played with good leverage. I remember how much I liked him; he just needed to add weight.”
And hit the weight room he did. Relentlessly, tirelessly, frequently.
“I just remember that every time I talked to Carl he was always, ‘Just leaving the weight room, just leaving the weight room,’” Ryan Nassib said. “Everything that’s coming to him now, he absolutely deserves because he started from scratch. Every year, he just got a little bit better and a little bit stronger.”
“I have no other words for his transformation, other than amazing,” said Kevin Pellegrini, his former coach at Malvern (Pa.) Prep. “I couldn’t be happier. This wasn’t something God-given. This is something he worked for.”
Nassib himself is not impressed.
“Personally, I don’t think about stats very much,” Nassib said. “The only stats that matter to me are the wins and losses every week.”
“That’s pretty interesting, now that you say it out loud,” Carl Nassib said. “I just always wanted to prove to myself that I was a good player. I never cared what other people thought of me. I still don’t think I’ve made it.”
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Jaylon Smith, a Lott IMPACT Trophy semi-finalist, will find himself on hallowed ground Saturday. And it’s not at a football stadium, like the one he plays in most of the season at storied Notre Dame.
No, Smith and his Irish teammates will play Boston College at Fenway Park in a Shamrock Series contest. It’s the first time a football game has been played at Fenway since 1968.
It’s a big deal around Boston. Standing room only tickets are $223. If you want to sit down near the field, the tickets run $1,250 per!