We're going to take this as an opportunity to create our own legacy. This program was not built by one man, and this program sure as hell is not going to get torn down by one man.
Things will only get tougher for Penn State going forward as the full weight of the NCAA sanctions sets in. But the Nittany Lions have this group of departing seniors to thank for keeping the pulse of the program strong.
Some were under the radar for most of their careers. Mike Yancich was named special teams captain at the end of the season. James Terry, Derek Day and Williamsport's Jake Fagnano all stepped in as starters this year when called upon because of injuries.
Beyond that were 10 seniors who made the biggest impact on Penn State over the past five years.
Newtown Square, Pa.
CAREER: 45 tackles, 9 TFL, 4.0 sacks, 1 FF, 1 FR
Not to be forgotten in all of the conversation about Mauti and his knee injuries is Massaro, who also came into his fifth and final season coming off of a second ACL surgery.
His final year was also hampered by injuries as he dealt with issues with his knee and shoulder. It's easy to forget that Massaro came off of that first ACL injury to be the team's most effective pass rusher in 2010 and was one of the Lions best players on the road against defending national champion Alabama.
It was nice to see him come back and play at a high level, defensive line coach Larry Johnson said. I'm a big Pete Massaro fan. He worked so hard to overcome adversity and each day get better and better.
CAREER: 13 starts at tackle
Farrell's biggest impact on the field didn't come until 2012, but his leadership in the locker room was apparent well before then. Along with West Scranton's Eric Shrive, Farrell took over the Uplifting Athletes organization at Penn State, which puts together the annual Lift For Life event to benefit kidney cancer.
After a hectic spring semester in 2012, Farrell dedicated himself in the weight room over the summer and thoroughly impressed the coaching staff, earning the starting job at right tackle. Early on in the year, he played on both the right and left side, occasionally switching in the middle of a drive when needed.
People don't understand how hard that is, coach Bill O'Brien said. Not just to make that switch and know your responsibilities, but to do it on the fly. Mike Farrell has had a heck of a year.
CAREER: 87 tackles, 20.5 TFL, 11 sacks, 6 FF, 2 FR, 1 INT
Dubbed the quiet storm by Larry Johnson, Stanley did his talking with his play. Despite playing as a true freshman, Stanley spent part of his early career in Joe Paterno's doghouse before emerging as a consistent and athletic presence in the front four.
Stanley was as comfortable rushing the passer as he was working out in space, one time actually breaking up a pass some 20 yards downfield last season against Ohio State. His final highlight was a sack and strip of Wisconsin's Curt Phillips in overtime last week, ultimately forcing a longer field goal try that was missed, giving the Lions the win.
Big Ten Freshman of the Year Deion Barnes credited Stanley for helping his helping him along as much as anyone.
He matured so much the last couple years, Johnson said. His tree really became full. Not just on the field but off the field and in the classroom. He's a complete player.
That's what you want to see in college. You see kids grow into young men. That's what happened with Sean, and I think that's really special.
CAREER: 115 carries, 384 yards (3.3 ypc), 9 TDs; 22 catches, 200 yards
Recruited as a linebacker, Zordich didn't even get one practice in before being switched to fullback. But the son of former Lions All-America safety Michael Zordich Sr. played the role without complaint, even if he got little time in the spotlight during his first four years.
That changed this past summer when Zordich stepped to the forefront along with Mauti to keep the team together just days after the sanctions were handed down.
On the field, he stepped in when the Lions struggled to find a tailback early in the year and was a factor as a tailback throughout the year, ultimately being named a team captain.
Mike's one of the best leaders on this team, fellow captain Matt McGloin said. He's a great football player and an even better person. He's worked his tail off and paid his dues.
He's one of the hardest workers we have. You know he's going to do the job the right way.
CAREER: 148 tackles, 8.5 TFL, 2.5 sacks, 1 INT
One of the team's more underrated leaders, Morris helped unite an inexperienced secondary in 2012 and also talk teammates off the ledge when losses made them question their commitment to Penn State.
On the field, Morris played as a true freshman and then started off and on the next two years. But as a full-time starter as a senior, he was a dependable cover corner who rarely missed a tackle despite his small frame.
You can't say enough about Stephon, O'Brien said. Playing some and not playing some, and now coming in there this year and done a nice job. That's not an easy position to play in our defense, because there's a lot of man coverage called out there.
You're on your own and you have to come up with big plays. And he's done that.
CAREER: 25 starts at center, 2 starts at guard
After the dust from the transfers cleared and the season began, Stankiewitch was the only full-time starter left from Penn State' 2011 team.
He anchored the offensive line and teamed with roommate Matt McGloin to keep the offense in rhythm, responsible for communicating McGloin's audibles to his teammates up front. He was named first-team All-Big Ten as a senior.
He's really one of the leaders on the team, McGloin said. A ton of experience. A bright kid, a great football player. He did a tremendous job preparing week-in and week-out. Definitely a big part of the offense and definitely a guy who makes us go.
CAREER: 249 tackles, 21.0 TFL, 5.5 sacks, 3 FF, 1 FR, 3 INT
He came in as a hard hitting safety and left as one of only two linebackers in school history to record multiple 100-tackle seasons.
Hodges particularly shined in 2011 after he was asked to play a bigger role when Mauti went down with a knee injury before Big Ten play. A month later, he was all over the field and making plays like the best linebackers in the country.
When Mauti couldn't play in that final game last week, Hodges donned his teammates' No. 42 after getting his blessing the night before at the team hotel.
I'm tearing up thinking about it, Mauti said. It was the biggest honor for me. We've come so far in our relationship and as players. It has really been an honor to play with him.
CAREER: 171 tackles, 19.5 TFL, 9.5 sacks, 2 FF, 4 FR, 1 INT
Playing the final month of his college career on a bad knee, Hill saved his best for last, recording 12 tackles in the finale against Wisconsin – eight came during in the fourth quarter and overtime, including three for loss.
After being lightly recruited by top programs out of high school, Hill committed to the Lions the day after they lost the 2008 Rose Bowl and the big man played right away as a true freshman. He was named a captain as a senior and was recognized as a first-team All-Big Ten player.
It's just hard to put into words what Jordan Hill's meant to this team, O'Brien said. He just plays so hard. He's an excellent football player. He's a phenomenal kid off the field. He's great in the locker room. There's nothing that you can say bad about him.
I just wish we had him for longer.
CAREER: 513-894 (57.4%), 6,385 yards, 46 TDs, 19 INT; 7 rushing TDs
For Penn State to have any success at all in 2012, O'Brien needed a quarterback to run his offense. And after two years of frustration from splitting time, McGloin went above and beyond in preparing for his shot as the full-time starter.
The first former walk-on to start at quarterback in the Joe Paterno era leaves as one of the program's most prolific passers, setting records for yards, touchdowns and completions in a season as well as a new mark for career touchdown passes.
Originally a polarizing figure because of his attitude and self confidence, McGloin left as a team captain and received one of the loudest cheers from the crowd during the senior day ceremony.
I knew right away that we had a competitive kid and we had a kid that football was very, very important to, O'Brien said. The way he was on the field, in meetings, the way he took notes, the way he listened. You have to have those traits to be a successful quarterback.
You have to, in my opinion, have a brain that can work fast, you have to be competitive, you have to have a huge desire to win. And he has that.
CAREER: 209 tackles, 13.5 TFL, 4.5 sacks, 4 FF, 1 FR, 5 INT
An inspirational figure like few others in Penn State history, Mauti was honored by the team, which put his No. 42 on those plain, white helmets for the final game. One that he couldn't play in because of a third major knee injury in the last four years.
This year alone, he spoke for the current players at Joe Paterno's memorial service, delivering a memorial speech without any notes. He spoke after the sanctions, first with his teammates and then to the media, defending the school that he, his father and brother all attended and played football at.
He then backed it up on the field, being named the Big Ten's Linebacker of the Year and a first-team all-conference selection.
No sanctions, no politician is ever going to take away what we got here, Mauti said. None of that is ever going to tear us apart. All we can do is put our heads down and go to work. We're going to fight for Penn State. We're going to fight for each other, because this is what Penn State is about – fighting through adversity.
We're going to show up every Saturday and raise hell.
So they did. So they will continue.
• Today: The seniors
• Saturday: The successors
• Sunday: The future