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Penn State’s Amos perseveres through turmoil, coaching changes

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Michigan's Devin Gardner throws a fourth-quarter pass over Penn State's Adrian Amos on Oct. 11, 2014, at Michigan Stadium in Ann Arbor, Mich.

Adrian Amos is aware that he is the answer to a trivia question.

Penn State’s versatile senior defensive back, Amos is the last remaining Nittany Lion who started a game under coach Joe Paterno.

“I saw that online somewhere,” Amos said. “Yeah, that’s pretty cool.”

Amos is one of only 10 active players left in college football who even appeared in a game for Paterno. Three are elsewhere: Rob Bolden (Eastern Michigan), Kevin Haplea (Florida State), Alex Kenney (Massachusetts).

From the roster of Paterno’s final 2011 team — he was fired after nine games — 19 remain on PSU’s roster. But Miles Dieffenbach did not appear in a game in 2011, and Deion Barnes, Kyle Carter, Ben Kline, Angelo Mangiro, Carl Nassib, Donvan Smith, Deron Thompson, Matt Zanellato and Anthony Zettel were redshirting.

Also, seniors Ryan Kesier and Zach Zwinak played for Paterno in 2011 but are out for the season with injuries.

The seven healthy players who are still at PSU and appeared in a game for Paterno combined for 39 appearances: Running back Bill Belton, linebacker Mike Hull, ends C.J. Olaniyan and Brad Bars, safety/special teams ace Jesse Della Valle, kicker Sam Ficken and Amos.

Back then, Amos was a true freshman cornerback. Since, he’s switched starting positions three times (to safety, back to corner and back again to safety) in starting every game the past three seasons. But where Amos lines up and what responsibilities he has aren’t limited to where he begins a game.

Amos said he has played strong safety, the “Star” hybrid defensive back/linebacker Penn State uses in certain packages and also “Buck” linebacker.

“He’s one of the more freakish athletes I’ve been around in terms of strength, speed, power, explosive type athlete,” Penn State coach James Franklin said.

Paterno was the first of four head coaches (counting interim Tom Bradley) and four defensive coordinators he’s played under.

Current coordinator Bob Shoop said Amos “has as good a skillset as anybody I’ve ever been around.”

Amos was honorable mention all-Big Ten last season despite being moved from safety to cornerback midway through the campaign.

“That’s what I’ve been since I’ve been here,” Amos said. “Even if it’s not where I would choose to be, whatever the team’s needed me to do.”

With PSU down a safety in the hospitalized Keiser and getting strong play at cornerback with three games left in the regular season, it seems assured that Amos will finish his career at safety.

“I’m just trying to enjoy these last couple games, you know?” Amos said. “Cherish every moment.”

By January, no players will remain in college who played for Paterno. Three years have passed, a reminder to Amos of all he’s been through during his unprecedented time at Penn State.

“I just leave it at I’m blessed,” he said. “It’s been a lot of different ups and downs since I’ve been here — a lot of different coaches, a lot of different everything. Everything is just different and — including a lot people don’t know about. But I feel like it’s all made me better as a person as well as a player.”

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