Bill O'Brien was talking directly to a group of local reporters on Monday morning, shortly after his Nittany Lions had completed their first practice of the preseason.
He was also talking to a much larger group of people.
O'Brien received an answered a handful of questions about his team, but it was clear what was on his mind Monday morning was letting reporters -- and their audiences -- know that, although Penn State's new coach wants to move forward in many ways on the field, he wants his team to be constantly aware of, as he put it on several occasions, "why we're in the position we're in."
"I think it's really important that people know that we understand why we're here, and we're going to show that," he said. "Once we get into the season and school starts, you'll see us reaching out to children, showing how much we care about children. We've got a bunch of dads on the staff, we've got a bunch of kids there that have a lot of pride in Penn State and not just playing football. They have pride for going to school here, pride in reaching out to the community."
The Jerry Sandusky sex abuse scandal ousted O'Brien's successor, Joe Paterno, and also led to sanctions by the NCAA that will make it increasingly difficult for the Nittany Lions to compete on the field. It has also shaken the university's nationwide reputation.
O'Brien's plan for his team hasn't changed. But he recognizes that he and his players will be as closely watched and heard from as any group of representatives from Penn State over the next several years and the opportunity that will afford them.
"I want Penn State to stand for the community, I want Penn State to stand for good students and the combination of being a student athlete," O'Brien said. "I want Penn State to stand football-wise for tough, smart football. I want Penn State to turn the page and move forward, understanding why we are."
O'Brien said Monday that his players will continue to be involved with the Special Olympics, Penn State's Dance Marathon and Lift For Life, all charitable events the team has participated in for several years. O'Brien said he also had a recent meeting with representatives from the Pennsylvania Coalition Against Rape (PCAR) and that the Nittany Lions will be involved with that organization as well.
Penn State opened practice with 52 active scholarship players Monday, not including the true freshmen. Nine players, including offensive veterans Silas Redd and Justin Brown and punter/placekicker Anthony Fera, elected to transfer in the last two weeks. O'Brien admitted that the situation is "day-to-day" but does not think he will see any more departures.
"I'm very confident that the guys that are here today are committed," he said.
New Jersey defensive tackle Jamil Pollard was the only player in Penn State's 18-member freshman class that decided to leave the program. The rest of the new Nittany Lions will be eased into preseason practices, O'Brien said.
"The first day it's kind of an acclimation period," O'Brien said. "They did some lifting with (strength coach Craig Fitzgerald) this morning and then they'll come out and have their own practice tonight. They'll be out there on their own just to try to get our terminology and our practice pace before we throw them into the fire with our other guys."
O'Brien wants his freshmen to understand the situation they've entered. He has similar hopes for those who will continue to cheer on his team.
"I expect our fans to come out and I expect our fans to understand why we're in this position, under these sanctions," he said. "I expect our fans to really root for this football team, because this is a good bunch of kids. ... I expect our fans to turn out and embrace a new era of Penn State football."