Nittany Lions name seven 2014 team captains

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. – Penn State head football coach James Franklin announced today (Aug. 13) that seven Nittany Lions have been elected co-captains by their teammates and the coaching staff.

Two offensive and two defensive co-captains were elected and three special teams co-captains were elected.

The defensive co-captains are senior linebacker Mike Hull (Canonsburg) and senior defensive end C.J. Olaniyan (Warren, Mich.).

The offensive co-captains are senior guard Miles Dieffenbach (Pittsburgh) and quarterback Christian Hackenberg (Palmyra, Va.), who becomes the first sophomore to be selected a Penn State football captain.

The special teams co-captains are senior safeties Jesse Della Valle (Pittsburgh) and Ryan Keiser (Selinsgrove) and senior placekicker Sam Ficken (Valparaiso, Ind.).

“The players and the coaches voted on the team captains and these players have clearly earned the respect of their teammates and coaches,” Franklin said. “We are trying to promote and develop leadership throughout the entire program, and I’m really excited about the role our captains will have throughout the season.”

The seven co-captains are tied for the most in Penn State’s illustrious 128 years of varsity football with the 1976 squad coached by Joe Paterno. The 1991 squad featured six captains.

Hackenberg, the 2013 Big Ten Freshman of the Year, is the second-youngest Nittany Lion to be named a team captain. Freshman John Chuckran was the captain of the 1944 squad during World War II. A 2013 first-team True Freshman All-American, Hackenberg ia the first non-senior to serve as a Penn State co-captain since junior Paul Posluszny in 2005. The Pro Bowl linebacker was a two-time Nittany Lion team captain, first-team All-American and Bednarik Award honoree in 2005 and 2006.

Della Valle, Dieffenbach and Hull earned their degrees in May and Keiser and Olaniyan will graduate this week. Ficken is on schedule to graduate in December, in three and a half years. Della Valle, Dieffenbach, Ficken and Keiser are two-time Academic All-Big Ten honorees and Hull is a three-time Academic All-Big Ten selection (3.0 GPA and a letterwinner).

Franklin was named Penn State's 16th head football coach on Jan. 11. A product of Langhorne, Pa., Franklin led Vanderbilt University to unprecedented success the past three years as head coach, including consecutive nine-win seasons and bowl victories the past two years, as well as back-to-back Top 25 finishes, all for the first time in Vanderbilt history. In his 20th year of coaching, Franklin was a two-time All-PSAC quarterback at East Stroudsburg University and set or tied 23 school records.

More than 5,000 new Penn State football season tickets have been sold for the 2014 campaign. Alumni and fans are able to purchase Penn State football season tickets and make their Nittany Lion Club donation online at, while choosing their own seats by utilizing Virtual Venue. New season tickets also are available by calling 800-NITTANY, weekdays from 8 a.m.-5 p.m.

A new Penn State football partial season ticket plan is now on sale for the Akron, Ohio State, Maryland and Michigan State games and represents a nearly 5 percent savings from the single game prices. Approximately 600 partial season ticket plans have been sold and are available only by calling 800-NITTANY.

Alumni and fans also are able to choose their own football single game seats online by utilizing the Ticketmaster Interactive Seat Map. Single game tickets are available at, by calling 800-NITTANY or visiting the Bryce Jordan Center Box Office.

The Recent Graduate ticket program gives Penn State graduates who earned an undergraduate degree from 2010-14 at any campus the opportunity to purchase up to two season tickets for $300 per ticket for the seven-game home schedule this fall. The cost includes a $50 donation to the Nittany Lion Club and is a savings of 35 percent from the regular $460 season ticket price ($360 + $100 NLC donation). Nearly 800 Recent Graduate program season tickets have been sold. Interested recent graduates can call 800-NITTANY, weekdays from 8 a.m.-5 p.m.

Penn State returns 40 letterwinners and 15 starters (seven offense, seven defense, one specialist) for the upcoming season and will play a trio of 2013 Top 10 teams this fall. The Nittany Lions will host Rose Bowl Champion Michigan State (Nov. 29), Ohio State (Oct. 25, 8 p.m.), Northwestern (Sept. 27-Homecoming, noon) and Maryland (Nov. 1) during its 2014 Big Ten home schedule. Penn State will host Akron (Sept. 6, noon), UMass (Sept. 20) and Temple (Nov. 15) during its non-conference slate.

The Nittany Lions open the season Aug. 30 vs. UCF in the Croke Park Classic in Dublin, Ireland.

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Media Contacts: 

Jeff Nelson

Last Updated August 13, 2014