UNIVERSITY PARK (AP) - Some may view the Penn State football team's signature charity event - Lift for Life - as a simple fundraiser, but the Nittany Lions aren't among them.
The players saw it as a chance to help beat kidney cancer and show off some of the grueling workouts they endure to get a leg up on the competition heading into the start of fall drills on Aug. 4.
"Lift for Life a lot of people see as an event. But for us, and Fitz (Director of Strength and Conditioning for Football Craig Fitzgerald), it's a workout," said offensive lineman Ty Howle, who serves as the Penn State Uplifting Athletes' director of operations. "We're going to lift hard. It's not something that's chalked up; it's still a hard workout for us."
Fellow offensive linemen Eric Shrive (president) and Adam Gress (vice president) and Howle form the leadership of Penn State's chapter of Uplifting Athletes, a national organization that raises funds for research into rare diseases, those that affect fewer than 200,000 Americans. All three agree that the Nittany Lions' offseason conditioning program gives the team an edge.
"It absolutely makes all the difference. Games are won on Saturdays, but the work is put in during the summer and winter. That all comes back to Fitz and how he pushes us through the workouts," Gress said.
"It's definitely satisfying. It's definitely a confidence boost. To see yourself get the kind of results that we do from doing the work we do through summer, through the winter, it's definitely something that makes you more confident in the way you'll play overall."
With the season opener against Syracuse on Aug. 31 at MetLife Stadium in East Rutherford, N.J., fewer than 50 days away, several hundred fans turned out Friday to the Penn State lacrosse field. Three offensive squads competed against three from the defense in six different tests of strength and speed.
Through the start of the event, Shrive said more than $113,000 had been raised. When the final total is announced early next week, Shrive said the total raised in the 11 years of the event will approach $850,000.
For Shrive, the event has taken on personal significance. His uncle - Marty King of Scranton - was diagnosed with kidney cancer two years ago. He's doing well now, Shrive said.
"That served as a little bit more motivation for me. It helped me raise some more money. I saw what he went through and it pushed me to raise more money," he said.
It's also a chance to show a positive side of the program that is sometimes lost in the wake of the Jerry Sandusky child abuse scandal.
"Anyone who wants to challenge the culture at Penn State can look at the past 10 years of Lift for Life and how it's grown every year. We're into hundreds of thousands of dollars raised," Shrive said. "Go find another football team in the country that's doing that on an annual basis."
Notes: The Big Ten on Thursday announced its football schedules for 2016 and 2017, signaling the beginning of nine-game conference slates. Penn State will play five home games in even-numbered years and four in odd-numbered seasons. Penn State will play the six other members of the Big Ten's Eastern Division (Rutgers, Indiana, Maryland, Michigan, Ohio State) and three teams from the Western Division.