STATE COLLEGE, Pa. -- Safety Malcolm Willis can sense the excitement from his fellow students. They'll ask him questions about the locker room and the team, but one question seems to be popping up a bit more this week.
What's up with those jerseys?
"It's the first time we're really getting to see the names on the back of our jerseys," Willis said Tuesday, "but it's all for good, I feel. It's an honor to represent my family name and the Penn State name."
Penn State's trademark plain, no-name jerseys were synonymous with the football program for as long as Joe Paterno roamed the sidelines. But this season, coach Bill O'Brien wanted to add the names to the back of the players' jerseys, a move that he announced earlier this month.
O'Brien said Tuesday the switch wasn't about making his own mark or replacing an outdated tradition. He simply wanted these players recognized.
"I thought it was important for people out there to know the kids who stuck with this program and this university and will help -- not lead, just help --- this community move forward," he said.
Willis said he never thought about the jersey change when he committed nearly four years ago. Most players likely didn't.
So, when linebacker Gerald Hodges pulls that blue jersey over his shoulder pads Saturday, it's going to be a unique experience.
"That's going to be one of the greatest feelings," Hodges said, " just to represent my family's name."