STATE COLLEGE, Pa. – Brian Gaia takes pride in his role as the anchor of Penn State's offensive line. And for the redshirt senior, that role has never been more crucial than this season.
Even though Penn State is ranked no. 8 in the latest College Football Playoff Poll, Gaia's focus remains on the task in front of him. This week, that is a primetime game against Rutgers in Piscataway.
With several veteran offensive linemen injured, Gaia is working on getting the younger players focused.
"We are just trying to work through those younger guys," Gaia said, "getting their first start or so [under the] big lights of Big Ten football."
Gaia said he makes a point to watch extra film with the underclassmen and to take them aside during practice to coach them in areas with which they struggle.
"I think it is just being a good example on and off the field," Gaia said, "seeing a guy they can look up to, who goes to class every day, goes to practice, practices hard every day."
Gaia said he isn't counting out the Scarlet Knights (2-8, 0-7 Big Ten). He remembered the intense crowd noise last time the Nittany Lions traveled there and has watched the Knights play close games with other conference opponents.
All of Gaia's pre-game preparation leaves little time for him to reflect on the bigger picture.
The Pasadena, Md. native was recruited by Joe Paterno. He played under four coaches, rode out the NCAA sanctions, and is now seeing the fruits of his hard work, results which could include a Big Ten championship berth.
But Gaia swears he is putting those thoughts in the back of his mind. At least for now.