That philosophy shows just how much Enis has bought into the Paterno School of Self-Improvement, but Enis's can-do attitude predates his arrival at State College. After Mississinawa Valley High he spent a year at Kiski Prep in Saltsburg, Pa., an academic boot camp that he attended for a year because he didn't meet Division I eligibility requirements coming out of high school. Virtually every minute of Enis's day was regimented, from the first class at 8:00 a.m. until study hall at 7:30 p.m. When he left the campus to go into town, he still had to adhere to the boarding school's coat-and-tie dress code. Of his year at Kiski, Enis has said, "It was outstanding how they shape boys into men. I loved it. Probably the best thing I ever did was to go to Kiski."
Indeed, it has left him with a preternatural maturity. Sequestered from the media most of last year because Paterno doesn't like his freshmen talking to reporters, the Kickoff Classic postgame press conference was Enis's first foray into the glare of the national spotlight, and he handled it with grace and humility. In between the "yessirs" and the "nosirs" with which he starts his sentences, he compulsively gave credit to his teammates and coaches. His only self-indulgence was a big grin upon hearing for the first time how many yards he had gained, thus revealing a mouth full of braces.
But before Enis begins to appear too cuddly, it should be noted his nickname is Transformer, for the way he morphs into an ornery cuss on the football field. "There's no style there, no finesse, he just has a tremendous will to run," says Darrell Russell, USC's preseason All-America defensive tackle. "Obviously he wanted it more than we did. All of them did."
That has been the subtext of the last three seasons for the Trojans, whose talent earned them a No. 7 ranking in the AP poll going into the Classic. With the loss to the 11th-ranked Nittany Lions, Southern Cal dropped to 7-8-1 against top 25 teams over the past three-plus years. USC has now been virtually eliminated from the national championship picture before the school year's first keg has been tapped. (Classes at Southern Cal weren't to start until Aug. 28.)
It certainly took some guts for the Trojans to travel across the country so early in the year to play a formidable opponent before such a hostile crowd. Of the 77,716 fans at sold-out Giants Stadium in East Rutherford, N.J., maybe three or four weren't rooting for Penn State. "I don't believe in scheduling cupcakes," Robinson said after the game. "We're trying to build a team and establish a foundation for the season, and to do that you need to test yourself. Realistically, there are only three teams that have a shot at the national championship anyway, so any comment about this game costing us our shot is irrelevant."
Robinson might want to consider making it easier on himself, though, especially with the heat he has been taking from USC boosters, for whom an ideal season is to go undefeated, win the national championship and then fire the coach. After last year's 8-2-1 regular season, the Daily Trojan, the USC student newspaper, called for Robinson's head on a platter. (Never mind that the Trojans were 9-13-1 in the two seasons before Robinson returned to the USC job, which he had held with distinction from 1976 through '82.) It has gotten to the point that if Robinson were to suddenly walk on water, the next day's headlines would read, USC COACH CAN'T SWIM. "The expectations never end," Robinson says, wearily.
Penn State is about to find out about expectations. Coming off a season during which the Lions had to scrap for a 9-3 record and with as many as a dozen freshman looking to get significant minutes, they had kept anticipation among their fans within reason. The usual poor-mouthing by Paterno had helped. However, a lot of doubts were eliminated after Sunday's emphatic win. The offensive line came together quicker than expected, and junior wide receiver Joe Jurevicius showed that he can be the playmaker Penn State sorely needs now that Bobby Engram is playing for the Chicago Bears. Richardson was quietly efficient—completing 10 of 18 passes for 102 yards—before leaving with a strained groin, which he pronounced "no big deal" after the game. The defense played with the skill you would expect from a squad with eight starters back, and two newcomers, defensive end Courtney Brown (a true freshman), and linebacker Brandon Short (a redshirt freshman) look like potential stars. Then there was Enis.
He's not quite as brash now as he was back in elementary school, but he does have one prediction. "I'm going to keep running the ball," he says. "Hard."
Penn State foes should consider themselves forewarned. Enis has a way of keeping his word.