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Pennsylvania's Football Pipeline: Lackawanna to Penn State

Mark Duda Had Falcons Flying West to Become Nittany Lions

SCRANTON, Pa. — Mark Duda has built a pipeline from Lackawanna College to Penn State. Since James Franklin arrived in Happy Valley back in 2014, he’s brought in nine of Duda’s players as junior college transfers. There are Falcon fingerprints all over this Nittany Lion roster.

"I think it started, I think in a lot of ways, because of my relationship with coach (James) Franklin," Duda, the Head Football Coach at Lackawanna College, said. "We go back a long way, all the way to Maryland, which is a long time ago, and he’s been a lot of different places, but when he got here, he made it a point to of trying to get here and try to get our best players every single year.”

Players like Jaquan Brisker and Ji’Ayir Brown – two key pieces on a top-ten scoring defense in the nation.

”He’s a leader," Duda said of Brisker. "Rarely do you get people who come into a program halfway through their tenure and become leaders of the program. Last year, when Jaquan called me on the phone and said should I stay or should I go, we were like, stay. Stay, get one year better and graduate. Well, Tig’s (Brown) in the same situation. Jaquan and Ji’Ayir are very, very close in many, many ways and I think he’s going to develop and be the best safety in the Big Ten to be honest with you and then his day will come professionally, as well.”

Because it’s not just about athletics. It’s also academics. Duda’s other two players on the roster, backup punter Bradley King and offensive lineman Anthony Whigan, graduated early. Before he heads to the NFL, Brisker did the same this month – something Duda was honored to see first-hand.

”It was a fantastic day," Duda said. "It was as good as any game day could have possibly been because just to have somebody that cares enough about you to want to make you part of the biggest day in their life I think was super rewarding and that’s why we do this.”

For every Falcon, the journey starts here at Veterans Memorial Stadium in Scranton, but at Lackawanna, it’s not about where you start. It’s about where you end up.

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”It’s all about placement," Duda explained. "I think we play a brand of football here that’s of a high enough level to where our kids can come in and make an impact in the Big Ten or the PAC 12 or wherever they go. You’ve got to understand. We love when guys go everywhere. When our guys go to Oklahoma, we’re thrilled. It’s just maybe we’re a thrilled a little bit more when they go to Penn State.”

Next season, two more Falcons are flying west to State College – defensive back Tyrece Mills and offensive lineman J.B. Nelson. That pipeline isn’t running dry anytime soon.

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