For award-winning Nassib, final honor may be the sweetest

Graduation tops off busy month for Penn State senior defensive end

After two weeks of accolades, including three national awards and being a unanimous consensus All-American, Penn State senior defensive end Carl Nassib will graduate with a biology degree on Saturday. Credit: Patrick Mansell / Penn StateCreative Commons

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. — After traveling across the country receiving accolades for his time spent on the field, Penn State senior defensive end Carl Nassib has one more honor he’s looking forward to: graduation, where he’ll be recognized for his work in the classroom.

Nassib, from West Chester, Pennsylvania, will walk across the stage Saturday to accept his degree in biology after a lot of hard work, dedication and schedule adjustments.

“It’s a huge accomplishment for me,” he said. “I’m really proud to graduate from Penn State and to have my degree from here, knowing all the hard work I put into getting it. Biology is not an easy degree to earn, especially from Penn State.”

Last fall was his hardest semester. He took three 400-level biology courses, a Spanish class and an online class. This fall, Nassib had to leave football practice early each Wednesday to attend his organic chemistry lab.

“I would always rush in there, and I was always out of breath trying to get there right in time to take the quiz,” he said. “But it was just something that I had to make work.”

It’s also something that he always did with a smile, according to chemistry lecturer Sheryl Dykstra.

“Carl created a very positive lab environment, which as an instructor I really appreciate because organic lab is tough,” she said. “Students are in there two days a week, three hours each day doing a lot of writing assignments, so it can get very arduous and overwhelming. He always had an upbeat attitude and brought everyone around him up in attitude, too. That’s impressive, especially from someone like him who has a lot of other things going on in his life.”

Dykstra added that an ongoing class joke was that Nassib would get his second workout for the day in organic chemistry. Since he’s so tall (6 feet, 7 inches), he had to do squats or lunges in front of the hood vent. His head was above the glass window, so he couldn’t see without crouching down.

Along with his attitude, Dykstra said Nassib was a committed student. “As the semester progressed, I thought, ‘this is crazy,’ ” she said. “He was doing so well on the athletics side and he was also tackling this course at the same time. I was impressed that he was so committed to finishing CHEM 213 and doing it well. It was very refreshing.”

Penn State defensive end Carl Nassib leads the FBS in sacks (15.5) and forced fumbles (6) and is first in the Big Ten in tackles for loss (19.5). Credit: Patrick Mansell / Penn StateCreative Commons

For Nassib, though, it’s just part of getting him to where he wants to be. During football season, the team lifts twice a week, but Nassib lifts four times a week, tacking on two extra workout sessions. He’s been taking classes year-round and has held various part-time jobs, including a stint at the Penn State Berkey Creamery. All of this, he hopes, will help him achieve his two dreams: playing football professionally and eventually attending medical school to be a pediatrician.

“When I was 18, I went to Latin America — Honduras and Guatemala — and I volunteered at a medical clinic there,” he said. “That really inspired me. The conditions there are pretty tough to say the least, and I would love to go back there and do some volunteer work or be a traveling doctor. Once you go there, you have to go back.”

Saturday’s commencement tops off two weeks of awards for a student who only made a name for himself on the national football scene in the past few months. Nassib came to Penn State as a walk-on and went on to earn a scholarship. However, he had never held a starting position — in high school or at Penn State — until this season.

“For a long time, no one really knew I was a student-athlete. It took me until about my senior year for people to recognize me as someone on the football team,” he said. “I’ve just been trying to keep my head above the water for so long. I’ve always thought I was good, and now people have caught up. I have a lot of confidence in myself, and you need to in order to get where you want to go.

“I’m so lucky and so blessed to receive these awards and to represent Penn State and my family. I’m really proud of these past few weeks.”

Nassib is the first Nittany Lion to win the Hendricks Award and Lott IMPACT Trophy and the second Penn Stater to be honored with the Lombardi Award. He joins an elite group of good company. Nassib is the first Penn State player since Larry Johnson in 2002 to earn three national awards. He also has 11 first-team All-America honors, the most for a Penn State player since Devon Still in 2011. He is just the 13th player in Penn State history to be a unanimous Consensus All-American. Additionally, Nassib was picked as the Big Ten’s Nagurski-Woodson Defensive Player of the Year, earned first team All-Big Ten honors from both the coaches and media and has been selected Academic All-Big Ten twice (3.0 GPA and a letterwinner).

“Carl has one of the best stories in college football,” Penn State head football coach James Franklin said. “He’s a biology major who walked on to the team. He never started a game in his career until this year. He came to Penn State weighing 217 pounds and through all of his efforts in our strength and conditioning program he’s at 272 pounds. Carl and his Penn State story are why you get into coaching — to give young people a chance to chase their dreams and do something special in the classroom and on the football field.”

After graduation and a trip to Jacksonville, Florida, for Penn State’s TaxSlayer Bowl appearance, Nassib will start working toward his next goals. He says his experience at Penn State has prepared him well.

“Being a student-athlete, especially one with a biology degree, I think I’ve prepared myself to tackle any sort of obstacle in my future,” Nassib said. “I hope I can be an example showing that you can really do anything you want if you work hard enough and long enough. Results aren’t going to come quick and people aren’t going to make it easy on you, so expect some hardships, but if you want something, it’s up to you to go get it.”

Last Updated January 26, 2016