UNIVERSITY PARK - Lenny Moore woke up early Saturday morning at the Nittany Lion Inn and took a walk downtown.
He wanted to see the old haunts he remembered from the 1950s. After he hit College Avenue, walking past The Corner Room and The Diner - "they used to call it the Penn State Diner," he said - he headed toward Rec Hall and the Nittany Lion shrine.
As he stood before it, a lifetime of memories flooded back.
"Things," he said, "were happening inside me."
Picking the best running back in Penn State history, among the bevy of choices, is difficult. There's all-time rushing leader Curt Warner and 1994 kingpin Ki-Jana Carter. There's season record holder Larry Johnson and Heisman Trophy winner John Cappelletti. There's Blair Thomas and Curtis Enis, Lydell Mitchell, Franco Harris and Charlie Pittman.
But there's no debating this: If he wasn't the best one - and he may well have been - Lenny Moore was definitely the first great one.
In an era where the players went "both ways," playing offense and defense, Moore averaged a ridiculous 8.0 yards per carry, a record that still stands among the season leaders - 55 years later.
He also led the team in interceptions twice and punt return average three times, including a blurry 17.5 per in '54.
Moore, now 75, was an honorary captain Saturday. It is the first time in memory a former player was accorded the distinction of being at midfield with the current captains for the coin toss and, if this becomes a new tradition, what a great choice to start.
"Lenny Moore was probably the best football player I've ever coached, all-around," Joe Paterno said Saturday after the Lions beat Syracuse, 28-7. "He was super. Some people think there wasn't any football here until I came. There's been a great history here, going way back."
Moore, who played at old Beaver Field (capacity: 30,000), was numb at his introduction to the pre-game roar of 107,000.
"It's wonderful, man," he said. "Wow. Looking at all the people, and hearing the 'We Are Penn State,' I'm just amazed at how we've grown. I can't get over this."
Neil Rudel can be reached at (814) 946-7527 or firstname.lastname@example.org.