Penn State's Glenn Carson takes his role as the quarterback of the defense quite seriously - so seriously, in fact, that he's never allowed anything to keep him off the playing field or the practice field in four years.

Nothing. Not a sprained knee. Not a bum shoulder. Not the bumps and bruises that are the nature of playing middle linebacker, as Carson does, where blockers and ballcarriers approach from all angles.

"The biggest thing is, I just love playing the game," Carson said. "Missing a practice or missing anything with my team ... it absolutely kills me to know I could do something and I'm not there next to them. It's just one of those things where I play through pain, something I've done consistently throughout my career."

Carson, a 6-foot-3, 235-pound senior, said his pain tolerance and mental toughness come from his background in wrestling, a sport in which he was a three-time New Jersey state finalist at Southern Regional High School.

The Stafford Township native won the 2009 championship at Boardwalk Hall in Atlantic City at 215 pounds while competing with a herniated disk.

He admits there was a day when he sprained his MCL and wanted to sit out college football practice. But he showed up in his jersey and did as much as he could with the Nittany Lions.

"I don't want to talk about exactly what kinds of injuries I've had," he said. "There were times when I was nicked up and could have used a day off. But like I said, it really kills me to see my team out there from the sidelines, so I'd rather play with pain than see that."

Carson, who graduated from Southern in 2009 but did not go out for football that year at Penn State as he recovered from back surgery, has appeared in every game since the opener of his freshman year. He will make it 39 straight, including his 25th career start, when the Nittany Lions kick off the 2013 season today against Syracuse at MetLife Stadium.

Carson started all 12 games at middle linebacker last season. He was third on the team in tackles with 85, including 14 in a 32-23 loss to Nebraska. As a sophomore he started 12 games and recorded 74 tackles.

Carson's experience is especially vital this season to Penn State's young linebacking corps. The Nittany Lions have a first-time starter in redshirt freshman Nyeem Wartman, and a bunch of young linebackers in reserve that coach Bill O'Brien hopes will develop and improve depth at the position.

"You practice a lot and you can learn a lot through practice," Carson said, "but it's just something about that game experience that's different than anything else. I've been in different situations in games, I've been behind, I've been up. I've just been around the block a little bit.

"I have that veteran experience and it's definitely going to help me coming into this season. I look forward to the younger guys looking to me when we're in certain situations and I kind of know what to do and what to expect."

Carson, a two-time Academic All-Big Ten selection, likes to call himself a "lead-by-example guy" and will say something only when he feels a need to say it. He hung out a lot with teammate Mi chael Mauti, now of the Minnesota Vikings, both in the film room and off the field and is one of the Lions' primary leaders.

He said he can barely contain his excitement heading up to MetLife Stadium, which is not too far from his Manahawkin home. He can't wait to get started.

"It's an opportunity for all my friends and family to come out and watch me play," he said. "I've been a Giants fan my entire life, so it's really a special game for me."