STATE COLLEGE, Pa. - Come Sept. 5, Penn State fans at Beaver Stadium may have to excuse Sean Lee.

The Nittany Lions' fifth-year senior linebacker may get emotional before the season opener with Akron.

"Whenever I look at the [college football] magazines or anything college football, I start thinking about the season," Lee said yesterday at the Penn State Football Fantasy Camp. "I get hyped up, worked up, pumped up. My adrenaline starts pumping."

Lee gets so jazzed that the 6-foot-2, 236-pound Pittsburgh native shies away from watching ESPN's College Football Live.

"I have to change the channel sometimes, because my adrenaline starts running so much," he said.

It's understandable. The team co-captain will return to action after a medical redshirt season. He tore the anterior cruciate ligament in his right knee 14 months ago, and that kept him off the field until this spring.

"When I got injured, my mom actually had a calendar that had how many days it was until the next game," Lee said. "I think it was 500 and something. She's been marking it off and randomly every once in a while showing it to me. I will like to see [the next game day] here soon."

For those of you counting, Lee has 85 days left until game time.

Lee may not be the only one excited to see him back in a game.

"With him being gone, last year was unfortunate for us," said quarterback Daryll Clark, the team's other co-captain. "And with him being back with healthy knees and everything, he is doing very well during these [summer conditioning] workouts. And I can't wait to see him in pads."

Neither can coach Joe Paterno, who used Lee as sort of a student-coach last season.

"Every time I turned around [on the sideline] I had to be careful," Paterno said with a laugh. "He might have been right up my you-know-what.

"He's an anxious kid. He's a heck of a kid. He's amazing."

Two seasons ago, Lee recorded 138 tackles en route to earning all-Big Ten honors. He was also the 2007 Alamo Bowl defensive MVP. He enters this season with 239 career stops and is only 17 tackles from cracking the school's top 10 list.

When Paterno wasn't talking about his standout linebacker, he spoke of his health, the team's outlook, and he reiterated why he wants the Big Ten to expand.

"I just think we ought to have 12 teams," Paterno said. "I hate to see the Big Ten sitting around there while we are all watching everyone else play. We had to go out to the [West] coast [for the Rose Bowl], and Southern Cal had two games after we played and the whole bit."

Contact staff writer Keith Pompey at 610-313-8029 or kpompey@phillynews.com.