Sam Ficken is Penn State’s man of the hour, just like he has been for the last five months.
It all started with his game-winning 36-yard field goal against UCF in Dublin, Ireland, at the Croke Park Classic and it ended with his game-winning extra point attempt (after tying the game on a 44-yard field goal with 20 seconds left in regulation) against Boston College in the New Era Pinstripe bowl at Yankee Stadium. Walk-off wins, which bookended his senior season, seem to have become Ficken’s signature move.
But he isn’t just a one-and-done kind of guy. Ficken consistently delivered for the Nittany Lions; he racked up 100 points this season after nailing all 28 extra point attempts and 24 of 29 field goal attempts, a far cry from his freshman year total of four points.
Through his improvement and subsequent star status in State College, he has remained humble. When asked how it felt to be the reason his team was successful, he shook his head, laughed, and blushed before denying that he had anything to do with Penn State’s triumphs.
“The way I look at it, you can’t build a football game up into one moment. Those guys are absolute animals for 60 minutes, and I come on the field for eight or 10 plays, so for me to say that I won the game in Ireland, I would be disappointed in myself if I said that.”
He continued to offer his team all of the credit, refusing any kind of compliment or responsibility for the win.
“Yes, I had the final play and yes, it won us the game, but I did not win the game. In no way did I win the game. My team put me in the position to help them win the game, and that’s the way I look at it.”
Although he denied any kind of recognition for the game’s outcome, he wasn’t immune to the high-flying emotion after time expired. However, he was quick to pay the proper respect to Boston College’s kicker, understanding on a personal level the stress of the position and the disappointment and criticism that comes from missing a big kick.
“I never root for a kicker to miss because of what I went through, but obviously [I was] excited. I was running around like an idiot after the game.”
His grit, determination, and humility are a product of the experiences and trials that his team went through over the last three years. For Ficken and his fellow seniors, this bowl game was the culmination of hard work and dedication to the university.
“It’s a testament to what this team’s been through. We stuck together through everything, way back to freshman year. That’s kind of the way a lot of games have gone this year. We won some, lost some. We’re going to fight no matter what, and that’s kind of the storyline for this year.”
He later added, “It’s something this team has fought for, for three years.”
For Ficken, his loyalty to Penn State is not going unrewarded, noting that the university has “provided me with tremendous opportunities outside of football” and although he has many options, chief among which is working on Wall Street – the senior recently completed an internship with Merrill Lynch – he intends to try his hand at playing professional football.
“I hope to kick a ball for a long time… I’m definitely going to pursue a career in the NFL.”
Though his Penn State career had a rocky start, Ficken’s success over the last four years has been phenomenal. Fans and teammates will miss him, but he ended his career in the best possible way, by giving his beloved university a much-needed victory.
He said it himself: “It’s kind of freaky how cool the story is.”
Maybe freaky, but not undeserved.
Photo Credit: GoPSUSports.com