September 30, 2010

Sukay, Astorino attempt to overcome challenges

Penn State's Nick Sukay and Drew Astorino have faced some tough setbacks throughout their collegiate careers.

Both have suffered sidelining injuries and both have come back from those injuries. Both have claimed starting spots for multiple seasons and both have seemed to struggle to get back into the rhythm this year.

The two redshirt juniors play the safety positions for Penn State. Astorino represents the free safety spot, and Sukay covers the hero spot.

Last January, Astorino underwent shoulder surgery to repair a torn labrum, which is a shoulder joint. Astorino worked through extensive rehabilitation in the off-season in order to be ready for a 2010 return. In his 2009 season, Astorino recorded a total of 62 tackles, and the risk of being lost for the season was always a possibility.

Sukay suffered a stress fracture in his foot in the spring of his freshman year. When a bone on the bottom of his foot didn't heal properly, he was forced to undergo surgery and miss his sophomore season. Sukay redshirted his freshman season, and didn't see his first Penn State action until his junior year when he nabbed the starting spot.

"Drew and I have two different situations," Sukay said. "I wasn't playing well when I was injured. Drew's out there playing every week. He's going through a lot more than what I did I think."

Although Astorino's shoulder still seems to bother him every now and then, both he and Sukay are recovered enough to play from their debilitating injuries. However, Astorino did see time on the bench this season when redshirt junior Andrew Dailey replaced him in the Kent State game, and Sukay seemed to be struggling up until last week's game against Temple when he recorded two interceptions.

"Nick has been a little bit hesitant to jump on some passes," head coach Joe Paterno said. "He plays the man sometimes when he should have gone after the football. And we've talked about that."

Concerning Astorino, Paterno says his shoulder is still a slight issue.

"The shoulder still bothers him," Paterno said. "It's really a week-by-week thing with him. We try not to get him banged up too much in practice so he can play well on Saturday."

Moving past injuries isn't the only thing the two safeties have in common. Sukay and Astorino are in their second year of starting for the Nittany Lions, and say they have a great relationship, both on and off the field.

"We're always looking towards each other," Astorino said. "We trust each other to be there. We call a lot of the coverages on defense so we have to be on the same page. It's pretty comfortable out there."

Sukay has a similar assessment of their relationship.

"When something goes wrong or we need to adjust, we know what we're thinking," Sukay said. "We have a good familiarity with each other."

The two safeties hail from Pennsylvania and though they never played each other in high school, they were close from the get go.

"There was a group of like eight or ten of us freshman year that were real close," Sukay said. "Ever since then, we've stayed close. We also just so happen to both play safety and are on the field at the same time, so it's a close relationship."



 

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