In his six months on the job, new Penn State head coach Bill O'Brien has quickly earned the reputation of a coach that won't back down.
Fighting a seemingly endless uphill battle, made even tougher by heavy sanctions imposed by the NCAA this week, O'Brien hasn't flinched. In fact, he's gone on the offensive.
"Life is about adversity," O'Brien on Thursday afternoon. "How do you deal with it? What do you do? Do you just say, 'Well, this happened to us, what do we do now?' No, you punch back. That's the way I was brought up and that's what we're going to continue to do."
Senior defensive tackle Jordan Hill, speaking to reporters at the annual Big Ten kickoff in Chicago on Thursday afternoon, stressed the importance of moving forward as a group.
"Since November we've been taking a beating, and I feel that [the comeback] started yesterday by Mike [Zordich] and Mike [Mauti] making a statement," said Hill. "We start camp next week, and that's the beginning of that, following up to September 1. That's our first real chance to go out as a team and to see the support that we get and we can show everybody what we're actually about."
O'Brien immediately hit the road, starting on Tuesday with an appearance on the Dan Patrick Show, and following that with stops on ESPN on Wednesday and a trip to Chicago on Thursday.
"It's important that people hear my opinion on the situation that came upon us on Monday," said O'Brien. "It's extremely important to me to get out and talk about Penn State and our football program and our players that are back in State College right now that are sticking together and working extremely hard for the 2012 season."
O'Brien has had help from a strong group of leaders back in Happy Valley.
"We have great leadership on this team," he said. "Michael Zordich and Mike Mauti did a great job yesterday. We've got guys here today - John Urschel, Jordan Hill, Gerald Hodges, we've got a number of guys - Matt Stankieiwitch our center, Justin Brown our receiver. I could go right down the list of guys. Matt McGloin obviously came out with a great statement. There's just a lot of good leaders on this football team."
"Through this first week, nobody has transferred out of that core group," said Hill. "It really speaks about how close we are as a team and how much we care about each other."
As restrictions stare down the barrel at O'Brien, he seems ready for the toughest coaching job in his career, which started at Brown in 1993.
"I consider it a fight in this aspect. It's about overcoming adversity," said O'Brien. "It's about what's right for the kids and it's about doing a great job of keeping this team together and having a really good training camp and Sept. 1. That's what it's about to me right now."
With heavy penalties taking away a another chance at a bowl game for players like Hill and junior offensive guard John Urschel, the current Nittany Lions have tried not to lose sight of what there is to play for this season.
"I'm not here to talk about what's fair and what's not. What has occurred, has happened, it is what it is. We can't change anything," said Urschel. "All we can do right now is to just try to show everyone how strong we are as a football program and how strong we are as a University, in spite of all these things, and show people what Penn State is truly all about.
"We're going to take that mentality this fall, and we're going to try to punch back every Saturday."