Penn State: Suhey continues family tie
Thursday, August 11, 2011
By Ron Musselman, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. -- Joe Suhey's family is passionate about Penn State.

He is a fourth-generation member of the most famous football family in school history.

The Higgins-Suhey pipeline has had a 95-year association with the Penn State program, which is entering its 125th season of competition.

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ID:	3013Suhey seemed destined to play for the Nittany Lions coming out of Loyola Academy in Illinois, even though he wasn't highly regarded as a running back or wide receiver.

"Coming in here as a small-time recruit, you really don't know what to expect," said Suhey, who also attracted interest from Iowa, Bowling Green and Northern Illinois. "I definitely had other looks and had other opportunities.

"I actually really liked Iowa -- I went there to a couple camps -- but Penn State was the right place for me. It might have been a bigger story if I had gone someplace else."

The Nittany Lions had oodles of talented tailbacks when Suhey arrived on the scene in 2007 -- Evan Royster, Rodney Kinlaw, Austin Scott and Brent Carter -- but were thin at fullback.

"You come out for the first time for practice and we talk about our first run and how nervous you were," Suhey said. "Then you look around and there are all these seniors and great players and you say, 'Oh, my goodness, how am I going to compete?'"

Suhey, a fifth-year senior, eventually ended up at fullback, and he didn't have to go far for advice.

His father, Matt, ran for 2,818 yards and 26 touchdowns for Penn State from 1976-79. He later served as the lead blocker for Hall of Famer Walter Payton and helped the Chicago Bears capture a Super Bowl title following the 1985 season.

"The fullback position has changed a lot since my dad played here," Suhey said. "We block a lot more these days, but that's fine with me. I just want to help my team win."

The Nittany Lions use two fullbacks in their offense, as Michael Zordich shares playing time with Suhey.

Suhey, 6 feet 1 and 219 pounds, is a better receiver out of the backfield, as evidenced by his 38 career catches for 376 yards and two touchdowns. He had just eight carries for 15 yards a year ago.

Zordich, 6-1 and 242 pounds, is a better blocker and more powerful runner in short-yardage situations. The redshirt junior and former linebacker had 18 carries for 40 yards and three touchdowns last season.

"I think it's something that has worked out well for both of us, since we're both in there contributing at fullback," Suhey said. "Mike's a good friend of mine. He does some things better than I do, and I do some things a little better than he does. We've kind of found a good mesh, and it's worked out."

Like Suhey, Zordich's dad, Mike, played at Penn State and in the NFL. He was an All-American strong safety from 1982-85, spent 12 seasons in the NFL and is currently the safeties coach for the Philadelphia Eagles.

Suhey is excited about the team's trio of talented tailbacks -- Silas Redd, Stephfon Green and Brandon Beachum.

"We're really excited about this year," Suhey said. "We think we have a lot of potential. We need to have some more big plays. We need to break a couple runs.

"We have such great game-breakers. We have the tools to do it, we just have to make some of those big plays that get the crowd involved and get the defense going."

Suhey's great-grandfather, Bob Higgins, was Penn State's second All-American (1915, '19) and later served as coach from 1930-48. His grandfather, Steve Suhey, married Higgins' daughter, Ginger, and was an All-American in 1947.

Two of Joe's uncles, Paul and Larry Suhey, also played for Penn State, and cousin Kevin was a backup quarterback and special teams player from 2005-07.

"It's not something you think about when you are out there playing, but when you look back at it, it's a cool tradition," Suhey said. "It's pretty unique for my dad, uncles and cousin all to play for coach [Joe] Paterno."

NOTES -- Penn State picked up two big recruits Wednesday, landing five-star defensive tackle Tommy Schutt and four-star wide receiver Eugene Lewis . Schutt, 6 feet 3 and 301 pounds, is from Glenbard West High School in Illinois, and he is ranked the state's top player. He had scholarship offers pulled from Notre Dame and Michigan on the same day earlier this month. Lewis, 6-1 and 180 pounds, is from Wyoming Valley West High School in Pennsylvania. He had offers from Michigan State, Wisconsin, South Carolina, Pitt, Virginia Tech, Maryland and Oregon. Schutt and Lewis are the 14th and 15th members of the Nittany Lions' recruiting class of 2012, which ranks 13th nationally.