As Friedrich Nietzsche so eloquently said, “that which does not kill us, makes us stronger.”
Among the multitude of philosophical quotes that have been and could be applied to this remarkable undefeated Penn sprint football season, this one stands out for its relevance to one of the team’s most important players: senior nose tackle Arthur D’Angelo.
Entering his junior season, D’Angelo had high hopes for both individual and team success, but a serious knee injury on opening day ended his season and clouded his future as a football player.
“At first, I was really worried that that was the end of my football career,” D’Angelo said.
Determined not to allow his darkest fears to become reality, D’Angelo immediately started the rehabilitation process and attacked each day with vigor, understanding that his ability to return to the field was dependent on his hard work.
“He worked hard in the off season to get himself back to where he’s able to really perform. I knew he would work his butt off, and he did,” Coach Bill Wagner said.
Additionally, D’Angelo understood that the 2016 team could potentially go down in Penn sprint football lore, but it was obvious that for the team to do so, he would have to play a crucial role.
“He’s had some great games for us. He’s a very good nose guard with great technique,” Coach Wagner said. “He puts a lot of pressure on the center of the opposing line. He’s a great player. He really is.”
However, D’Angelo’s on-field abilities and accomplishments do not adequately represent his importance to the team. According to star senior quarterback Mike McCurdy, D’Angelo’s leadership and energy are just as crucial as his form and quickness.
“He sets the tone from an emotional standpoint, and we all go the way he goes emotionally,” McCurdy said. “He’s a leader. He’s that type of guy who will come back and fight hard for his team, his family.”
That leadership and ability to fight have served D’Angelo well on the field this year, as he has become the anchor of a defense that has allowed more than 20 points just once this entire season.
In fact, his level of play in 2016 has been has been so impressive that it is impossible to tell that he was ever injured.
“He hasn’t skipped a beat. He really hasn’t,” Coach Wagner said.
If anything, the injury has had a positive impact on D’Angelo’s game. It has helped him significantly with the mental aspects of football, bestowing upon him a new appreciation for the sport itself.
“The biggest change in my mindset is that now, when I go out there, I realize that each play could be my last as a football player,” D’Angelo said. “So it definitely has made me focus on each play, making sure that I go hard every single play.”
D’Angelo’s last plays as a Quaker will come this Saturday as Penn looks to close out an undefeated championship season at Post. His long, strenuous battle back into form will have its merits tested this weekend, the last time he will ever don the Red and Blue. All of his hard work can culminate this Saturday with a prize worthy of his epic journey.
Luckily for the Quakers, the stakes do not worry D’Angelo. He’s been through worse.