College Spotlight: Penn State University Nittany Lions

Posted on September 11 2019

The North American felis concolor is the athletic symbol for the Penn State University Nittany Lions. It also goes by the name panther, puma, cougar, and mountain lion. About a quarter of a century after the 1855 founding of the University, the big, beige-colored cat became extinct (in certain regions). But enough about the cat (for now) – let's get on to a little bit of history and information about those Nittany Lions!

College Spotlight: Penn State University Nittany Lions

The Legend of Nittany

Near Mount Nittany, in the broad Nittany Valley, you will find Penn State. Meaning "a protective barrier against the elements" the name is reportedly derived from Indian words. On a map dated 1770 (W. Scull’s map of Pennsylvania), the name “Nittany” is located approximately in the right place. There is a regional folklore connection between the name Nita-Nee (or Nittany) with two Indian maidens.

Myth has it that, revered for her ability to lead her people into the fertile Central Valley of Pennsylvania, Princess Nittany also kept her people safe from rival tribes. The mountain miraculously appeared overnight at her burial site after she died – and that's how the geographical landmark got its name.

Penn State and Nittany

Once upon a time, a man named Harrison D. "Joe" Mason thought that adopting the Nittany lion as an athletic symbol for Penn State would be a good idea. Along with other members of the varsity baseball team, around 1904 at Princeton, the group was shown two Bengal tigers. The cats were to represent, during a game, the merciless treatment that the opposing team would be subjected to. Instantly, Mason fabricated the king of beasts – the Penn State Nittany mountain lion – who would be victorious over others as powerful as, let's say, the Tiger. Mason was able to persevere with his idea after Princeton was defeated by the Penn State team.

Don't Confuse Cats!

There tends to be some confusion between the African lion and the Nittany lion. But, a sculpture of the Nittany mountain lion, presented as gift to the school by the class of 1940, cleared up all confusion. It then became the official symbol of the team in 1942. The powerful crouching figure of the Nittany lion, a work by noted sculpture Heintz Warneke, is now a popular Nittany Lion shrine. It is located near the recreation building, amid tall trees, on a grassy mound at Penn State University Park.

Best Players From Penn State

Though a topic like this is always debatable, here are some of the finest players to ever come out of Penn State:

  • Quarterback – Kerry Collins
  • Running back – Saquon Barklay
  • Wide receiver – Bobby Engram
  • Tight end – Mike Gesicki
  • Offensive line –Mike Munchak
  • Defensive end – Courtney Brown
  • Defensive tackle – Mike Reid
  • Linebacker – LeVar Arrington
  • Defensive back – Marcus Allen
  • Punter or kicker – Matt Bahr
At Hat Heaven, in addition to the Penn State University Nittany Lions cap, we have numerous hats representing college teams such as the Georgetown Hoyas and the University of Alabama Crimson Tide. Not into college sports? No problem. We have hats representing the NFL, MLB, NHL, NBA, and more. We carry caps by various manufacturers in a plethora of colors, designs, styles, etc. Shop Hat Heaven today and you're bound to find your new favorite hat!


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