It's been a while since I've written for the Times Observer, and now I'm writing from the inside of a tent when I should be in class.
No, I didn't drop out of my enrollment at Penn State University to hike across the country.
I didn't join the Peace Corps or anything like that.
Penn State students Mitchell Wilston, left, from Sugar Grove, and Evan LaFrance, from New Castle, Pa., hang out in Nittanyville, a student tent city outside Gate A of Beaver Stadium in State College, Pa., Friday. Students are camping to be first in line for student section seats for Saturday’s NCAA football between Penn State and Ohio State.
Photos courtesy of Young Mitch
Above, Mitchell Wilston poses in front of the tent city known as Nittanyville, located near Gate A at Beaver Stadium at Penn State University. Nittanyville, formerly Paternoville, is a Penn State tradition started in 2005. Students spend hours waiting to get the best seats in the first-come, first-serve student section. According to group president Troy Weller, the 140 tents outside Gate A this week is the largest number ever. At left, among Wilston’s exploits, he and fellow Eisenhower High School graduate Dillon Farrell, right, pose in Nittanyville with Linebacker U.’s Michael Mauti.
Photo courtesy of Mitch Wilston
I joined Nittanyville, along with 1,400 of my fellow students.
The objective of the Nittanyville campers is simple: We want to be as close to the action as possible for Saturday's student-named "Ineligi-Bowl" against Ohio State.
The rules, or rather, rule, is just as simple: At least one person needs to be at tent camp 24/7.
It started on Monday night with online sign ups. The faster you sign up, the early you get to pick your seats for Saturday's home game against Ohio State in the student named Inelligi-Bowl.
I pulled out all the stops for registration; knowing that the library's internet is the fastest on campus, I nabbed a computer an hour early and began practicing filling out the online registration form, which involved writing the names and phone numbers of all 10 members of your Nittanyville camping group. When the seven o'clock deadline came around, I was ready. My official registration time was 16 seconds, and I was sure it was fast enough to guarantee a front-row seat to Saturday's game.
I was wrong.
In the 16 seconds it had taken me, 60 or so other groups had registered. Within two minutes, 138 of the total 140 Nittanyville tent groups had registered for the game.
By 11 p.m. Monday night, the tents were pitched outside Gate A of Beaver Stadium and the fun began.
In case you don't know Mitchell Wilston, or Young Mitch, as well call him, he'll try anything once as long as it means he's living life to the fullest.
As a part-time sports writer, the former high school wrestler took part in a Mixed Martial Arts Tournament - without training for it, rode a mechanical bull - without training for it, and competed as part of a relay in the Kinzua Country Tango Adventure Race - without training for it. Then he wrote about his exploits with a bruised ego.
Residing for five days in a tent village leading to Penn State's game Saturday against No. 9 Ohio State?
Piece of cake.
The Buckeyes (8-0, 4-0 Big Ten Conference) and Nittany Lions (5-2, 3-0) are tied atop the Leaders Division standings, and both are ineligible for bowl games.
If there is a way to gauge the excitement on campus for Penn State's biggest game of the year, it's outside Gate A.
It's Mitch Wilston.
Nittanyville, formerly Paternoville, is a Penn State tradition started in 2005. Students spend hours waiting to get the best seats in the first-come, first-serve student section.
According to group president Troy Weller, the 140 tents outside Gate A this week is the largest number ever.
So far we've had a slam dunk competition on an eight-foot hoop (judged by the Penn State men's basketball team), trash-can football competitions and late night pep rallies.
Local businesses have kept us going with random food drop-offs, and coaches randomly show up to talk to their biggest fans.
While the camp is packed-most of the tents are touching on all four sides-we're not exactly roughing it. The first thing we did after setting up our tent was to drag my mattress and a couple of lawn chairs across campus, and we are close enough to the stadium to steal its WiFi signal. My biggest concerns right now are that the hammock I'm typing this in is filling up with falling leaves, and what my parents are going to think when they find out I've been skipping class. It was just one or two, Mom, I swear.
There are a few more days left of the campout, but the anticipation of the big game is just growing and growing.
On Wednesday night, the football team showed up to hang out. Head coach Bill O'Brien was here! As soon as he arrived at the camp, I jumped him and shouted in his face, "BILL O'BRIEN! YOU ROCK!" And, as he is the coolest person in the world, he shook my hand and said, "No, YOU rock!" I'm never going to wash that hand.
After finishing this article, I made my way over to Nittanyville Thursday night to do some serious studying (that's for you, Mom) when these people started shouting, "If you want to go to Bill O'Brien's radio show at Damon's, get on the Blue Bus!"
I had no idea what Bill O'Brien's (B'OB) radio show was, but I got on the blue bus. We get to the radio show and it's a big restaurant with B'OB in the corner being interviewed. Eventually, he started fielding questions. I jumped at the opportunity and flagged the microphone guy down.
"Coach, my question comes in two parts: How are you guys going to stop Braxton Miller, and last night at Nittanyville you shook my hand and told me I rocked, I've never been more proud, did you mean it?"
And Bill O'Brien told me I rocked, AGAIN! That's twice in two days. What are YOU doing with your life?
Unfortunately, after he said that, he was informed I was wearing a Buffalo Bills hat, and that that was a problem I'd have to deal with on my own. But, still, Bill O'Brien said I rocked. Twice. To top it all off, the guy paid for my group's dinner. You can't beat that.
Friday update: Just had my photo taken by the AP press; he took my name (spelled it Mitchell Wilson). Look for me on the wire! I was chillin' in the hammock.
And ESPN just filmed me!
Ohio State coach Urban Meyer says that their no huddle offense will quiet down the student section, but I'm not sure he knows what to expect.
Come Saturday, this big house will be rockin'.
Look for me on TV, I'll be the kid dressed all in white.
So will the other 108,000 people.