WE ARE coming together to build sustainable, just and equitable communities
The Legacy of Lions is a coalition of Penn State University athletes - current players, letterman and alumni, who have joined forces to impact the social and environmental well-being of both people and planet.
The players and their non-profits, all of which impact the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), unite to host impactful societal engagements and events to support, empower and accelerate the sustainability of our communities, shaping a stronger, more inclusive world where everyone has access to education, justice, economic empowerment in a safer, healthier environment.
By participating in and contributing to the events hosted by the Legacy of Lions’ non-profits, you are embracing your responsibility as a stakeholder of the future.
WE ARE stronger together!
GARRY GILLIAM (TE, OT) NFC Champion
Milton Hershey School, Hershey, PA
Penn State University (2009-2013)
Seattle Seahawks (2014-2017)
San Francisco 49ers (2017-2019)
Garry graduated from Penn State University with multiple degrees (Business Development, Psychology and Advertising), which he puts to good use in his post-professional football career. A serial entrepreneur, Garry is a prolific businessman who learned valuable business and life lessons on the field that enhanced his character, perspective, focus and business acumen off the field. Using his businesses to not only complement and enhance one another, Garry also prioritizes community support through youth empowerment and mentorship.
With a belief that a community is only as strong as the services, resources and businesses which support it, Garry was determined to find ways to solve some of the biggest needs and fractures within society. It was while playing with the Seahawks that Garry first channeled his vision for a sustainable, mixed-use community eco-system into what is now The Bridge Eco-Village in Harrisburg. When complete, The Bridge Eco-Village will feature solutions to many of the problems facing underserved communities: housing, retail, co-working spaces, education opportunities, entrepreneurship incubators, urban agriculture, sports and entertainment. With plans to expand The Bridge model across the USA and Africa, Garry recognizes that ambitious plans for business expansion depend on meaningful collaboration, continued personal and professional development and the recognition that the businesses of the future must prioritize environmental, social and economic sustainability.
EMPOWER AT THE BRIDGE FOUNDATION
The non-profit which Garry is supporting through Legacy of Lions is the Empower the Bridge Foundation, the non-profit branch of The Bridge. The mission of Empower the Bridge Foundation is to provide specialized opportunities and improved quality of life for underprivileged and underserved individuals and families suffering from systemic oppression by creating awareness, providing community support, financial literacy education and sustainable housing options.
AUSTIN JOHNSON (DT)
St. Augustine Preparatory School, Galloway, NJ
Penn State University (2013-2015)
Tennessee Titans (2016-2019)
New York Giants (2020-Present)
“Leading by example” on the field at Penn State became synonymous with Austin Johnson’s performance as a defensive tackle, leading him to be a 2nd round draft pick (43 overall) by the Tennessee Titans in the 2016 NFL Draft.
Prolific at both tackles and sacks, Johnson spent three seasons with the Tennessee Titans before signing with the New York Giants in 2020, re-signing in March of 2021. Johnson is regarded for his eyes on the field, anticipating quarterbacks’ intentions and directions within the pocket, finding the path of least resistance.
COVENANT HOUSE ATLANTIC CITY
The non-profit which Austin is supporting through Legacy of Lions is Covenant House Atlantic City. Covenant House Atlantic City is a non-profit that provides comprehensive residential care and related services to Atlantic City’s youth who have suffered from abuse, neglect, abandonment, homelessness, and human trafficking.
SAEED BLACKNALL (WR)
Manalapan High School, Englishtown, NJ
Penn State University (2014-2017)
Oakland Raiders (2018)
Miami Dolphins (2019)
Arizona Cardinals (2019)
Los Angeles Wildcats (2020)
Pittsburgh Steelers (2020)
Saeed had a strong career as a Nittany Lion, having a total of 50 career receptions for 979 yards with seven touchdowns. He became a three-time Academic All-Big Ten selection. At Penn State, Blacknall appeared in the first four seasons (2014-2017) of Unrivaled: The Penn State Football Story, presented by Pepsi©. On January 8, 2020, Blacknall received an Honorable Mention as one of the top Penn State wide receivers of the 2010s on RoarLionsRoar.com. During his time at Penn State, Blacknall helped to lead Penn State to a series of championship honors, such as the Croke Park Classic Champions (2014), Pinstripe Bowl Champions (2014), Big Ten Champions (2016), and Fiesta Bowl Champions (2017).
Even during his years in the NFL, Blacknall spent considerable time refining and developing his skills as a graphic video creator, which he recently turned into a business, founding a graphic video design business called ANL Aesthetics. ANL stands for Angels Never Leave, which represents the strong spiritual belief for which Blacknall attributes much of the opportunity and success he has realized as an athlete and entrepreneur. As an entrepreneur, Blacknall also works with young athletes hosting football camps that focus on both physical development and character development, preparing young athletes to excel on and off the field. Blacknall also serves as director of brand development for Phoenix Global, introducing and developing exclusive products and brands to a global market.
READ THE PAST, WRITE THE FUTURE
The non-profit which Saeed is supporting through Legacy of Lions is Read the Past, Write the Future. Read the Past...Write the Future is a non-profit which endeavors to change the lives of children by capturing their dreams and vision for the future, giving them the encouragement and hope necessary to recognize that they have the power to overcome their circumstances to live extraordinary lives. The children are given a motivational story about the past, and a blank notebook and pen for them to write their vision for the future. These stories will be collected annually from youth from across the global, and their stories will be published in an annual journal, allowing people to read the hopes, dreams and visions of youth, which differ due to geographical locale, socioeconomics and the particular advantages or challenges they experience. Read the Past, Write the Future is shaping the future, one story at a time.
JORDAN HILL (DT) Super Bowl Champion
Steelton Highspire High School, Steelton, PA
Penn State University (2009-2012)
Seattle Seahawks (2013-2016)
Washington Redskins (2016)
Jacksonville Jaguars (2016)
At Penn State University, Hill led the defensive line by recording 59 tackles, including 8 for a loss and 3.5 sacks. Hill was First-team All-Big Ten in 2012 and was awarded the Big Ten Sportsmanship Award in 2012. Hill graduated from Penn State with a B.A. in Recreation, Park and Tourism Management.
Hill was drafted in the 3rd round as the 87th overall pick, by the Seattle Seahawks in the 2013 NFL Draft. In the 2013 season, Hill recorded 7 tackles and 1.5 sacks, ultimately winning a Super Bowl ring in Super Bowl XLVIII.
Football remains an important part of Hill’s life, as he has recently accepted the position as head football coach for Trinity High School, located in Camp Hill, PA. Hill also serves as Chief Community Officer for The Bridge Eco-Village in Harrisburg, PA.
JORDAN HILL FOUNDATION
The non-profit which Jordan is supporting through Legacy of Lions is the Jordan Hill Foundation. The mission of the Jordan Hill Foundation is to help raise awareness around diabetes prevention as well as the advanced research of kidney disease in an effort to raise research funding to find cures for these diseases.
NATE STUPAR (LB)
State College Area High School, State College, PA
Penn State University (2007-2011)
Oakland Raiders (2012)
Philadelphia Eagles (2012)
San Francisco 49ers (2012-2013)
Jacksonville Jaguars (2013)
Atlanta Falcons (2014-2015)
New Orleans Saints (2016-2017)
New York Giants (2018-2019)
A native of State College, Stupar played at Penn State where he appeared in 52 games (16 starts). After graduating in 2011 with a Bachelor of Arts in Film/Cinema/Video Studies, Stupar was drafted in the 7th round of the 2012 NFL Draft by the Oakland Raiders.
After 8 years in the NFL, Stupar embarked on the next phase of his life, post-football, as the Vice President of Business Development and Maintenance at R.H. Marcon, Inc. in State College.
STATE OF HOPE FOUNDATION
The non-profit which Stupar is supporting through Legacy of Lions is State of Hope Foundation. State of Hope Foundation was founded in State College, PA by Nate and Marissa Stupar in 2016. The State of Hope Foundation is committed to helping provide children of low income families, single parents, and other less fortunate situations with positive life experiences that they may not be able to obtain otherwise. The State of Hope Foundation intends to expand its reach and welcomes any opportunities to carry out its mission statement globally, providing disadvantaged children with positive life experience that enrich lives, build confidence and instill hope.
MIKE GESICKI (TE)
Manahawkin Southern Regional, Manahawkin, NJ
Penn State University (2014-2017)
Miami Dolphins (2018-Present)
As a tight end, Mike Gesicki finished his career at Penn State with at least on reception in 27-straight games, leaving Penn State ranked No. 9 in Penn State history, holding a Penn State tight end-record 129 catches. Gesicki capped his career at No. 17 on Penn State's career receiving yards chart with a Penn State tight end-record 1,481 yards. Gesicki hauled in a Penn State tight end-record 15 career receiving touchdowns to rank tied for No. 9 in school history at the conclusion of his senior season. Gesicki eclipsed the tight ends record for receptions with his final catch vs. Pittsburgh (9/9/17), surpassing Andrew Quarless' 87 grabs from 2006-09. Gesicki was named to the John Mackey Award watchlist in July 2017, which is awarded to College Football’s most outstanding tight end.
Gesicki was selected by the Miami Dolphins in Round 2 of the 2018 NFL Draft, as the 42nd overall pick. Regarded as one of the best tight ends in the League in 2020, Gesicki looks forward to another great season ahead with the Dolphins.
The non-profit which Gesicki is supporting through Legacy of Lions is Uplifting Athletes. Uplifting Athletes is a non-profit organization of college football players benefitting those who are fighting rare diseases. Uplifting Athletes was founded in 2003 at Penn State University by a group of Nittany Lion football players who turned an annual weightlifting competition into a fundraiser to benefit those who are suffering from rare diseases, such as kidney cancer.
JOHN GILMORE (TE)
Wilson High School, West Lawn, PA
Penn State University (1998-2001)
New Orleans Saints (2002)
Chicago Bears (2002-2007)
Tampa Bay Buccaneers (2008-2010)
New Orleans Saints (2011)
Graduating from Penn State in 2002 with a B.S. in Recreation and Parks Management, Gilmore was drafted in the 6th round of the 2002 NFL Draft. Following an extensive career in the NFL, Gilmore retired in 2012.
Gilmore is the CEO of Brandthumb, a branding, marketing and strategy agency, working with clients to infuse creative solutions into their business strategies. He is also the co-founder and Chief Happy Marketer for Happy By Chocolate, and on-air radio personality for iHeart Radio. Gilmore is widely known for his deep commitment to community support.
GILMORE HENNE COMMUNITY FUND
As co-founder of The Gilmore/Henne Community Fund, which he co-founded with Chad Henne (Kansas City Chiefs), Gilmore is committed to creating, supporting and rejuvenating Berks County, PA recreational park programs through improvements and maintenance, helping to ensure that youth have safe and engaging recreational space within their communities.