STATE COLLEGE, Pa. – For two years, Miles Sanders patiently waited his turn behind Saquon Barkley, getting only 56 carries, and he worked hard to be at his best when he became Penn State's starting running back this season.
His dedication has paid off. The junior from Pittsburgh became the 16th player in program history to rush for 1,000 yards in a single season after rolling up 159 yards in 23 carries on Saturday, in the Nittany Lions' 22-10 victory over Wisconsin at Beaver Stadium.
"It feels good," said Sanders, who finished the day with 1,007 yards. "I worked really hard the last two years I've been here and in the off-season right before this season. So, it's something I feel good about. Thanks to the [offensive] line — gotta thank them. It started with them, so it was a really good day."
Head coach James Franklin and Sanders' teammates have admired the way he has grown as a player and as a person since he came to Penn State.
"Miles has been just a tremendous teammate, couldn't be more positive, and I'm proud of him," Franklin said. "Those are one of those things, as the head coach, that I take a lot of pride in – how our players, how our coaches conduct themselves through adversity, through success, all of it.
"He is a great example of that. He's just matured in so many areas from the young man we went and recruited. Obviously [his] mom has done an unbelievable job raising him, but he's really matured as a football player, as a person, as a student, and I couldn't be more proud of him."
Quarterback Trace McSorley thinks the same way.
"What's cool for me and for the rest of our team has been … seeing him grow as a leader and kind of get more comfortable in that role of being able to speak up and get guys going on offense," McSorley said. "We all knew what he could do athletically, but seeing him step into that leadership role is something that's been awesome for us to see."
Shareef Miller's eyes lit up. He experienced a lineman's dream, plucking Wisconsin quarterback Jack Coan's fumble out of the air in the fourth quarter and heading toward the Badgers' end zone to score a defensive touchdown.
But the 6-foot-5, 260-pound end fumbled when he got hit inside the Wisconsin 20, and the Badgers recovered.
"I probably haven't had a football in my hand for like, seven years," the former George Washington High School star said. "So, when I caught it, I was trying to score. But the guy stripped it. That's cool, though."