Penn State alum Paddy Cotter is just days away from the premiere of a new documentary titled “16”, which tells the story of the former Penn State men’s lacrosse goaltender Connor darcey, who played for the Nittany Lions from 2013 to 2015, but died in a tragic car accident.
Cotter was first introduced to sports documentaries at Penn State by Professor John Affleck of the Donald P. Bellisario College of Communications. He then started his own business, Opening Statement Productions, and got to work on “16”.
“I kept trying to capture this story in writing, but I never got to… way too many adjectives and way too much artistic writing,” Cotter said. “But, I felt like I could do documentaries and I could better understand how emotional people were.”
Cotter got the idea to create the documentary after interviewing former Penn State player Ryan Keenan. Keenan was a freshman at the time of Darcey’s death and was the first player to wear the number 16 after Darcey’s death. He spoke with such emotion during their interview that Cotter knew he had to find a way to document this story.
“Darcey had been gone for four years then, but he’s still a part of that team every day and everything they think about and everything that motivates them to take it to the next level,” Cotter said. “It’s this crazy energetic motivation that I haven’t seen very often in sports.”
Cotter then introduced the story to head coach Jeff Tambroni, and after his approval, he began interviewing former teammates, the Darcey family and the Penn State team. Cotter ended up interviewing nearly two dozen subjects.
“I think a big reason people agreed to be on the documentary is that by adding a documentary, you add another way to keep Darcey’s spirit alive,” Cotter said.
The Penn State team now pays homage to Darcey by having “CD 16” on the back of players’ helmets. The number 16 is on the back of the goal in every game and on the scoreboard during practice. Additionally, the number is worn by a senior who best embodies Darcey’s best attributes, including competitiveness and teamwork.
It took Cotter over three years to create the documentary. Between filming, interviews, following the lacrosse team, and observing the legacy of Number 16, he had a real understanding of what the number still meant to this day.
Cotter screened “16” in June 2021 while polishing the documentary, but decided it would be a good test to see how an audience outside of Penn State, lacrosse, or Boston (where Darcey is from) fared. reacted.
“The response has been incredible,” Cotter said. “They were so interested and thrilled and asked some great questions in the Q&A afterwards. That’s when I was like, “OK, I’m not crazy, that might work. ”
One of the highlights throughout preparing this documentary for Cotter was the fact that he was able to make connections with people he probably wouldn’t have met otherwise.
“Building a relationship with the Darcey family in particular has been so fun, inspiring, uplifting and taught me so much,” Cotter said. “The way they were able to describe their experience and give advice on how to get through such a tragedy was something I will keep with me for the rest of my life.”
Want to attend a screening of “16” yourself? It will premiere at the State Theater in downtown State College on Thursday, October 14. Tickets for the 7 p.m. show are available here.