ORLANDO — When Bradenton (Fla.) IMG Academy running back Noah Cain signed with Penn State earlier this month, the four-star prospect did so with the intention to get both himself and his future program to the next level. Head coach James Franklin has preached his intent to get the Nittany Lions to take another step and join college football’s elite, and that’s something he told Cain multiple times throughout the process.
The future Nittany Lion told reporters in Orlando on Saturday when arriving for the Under Armour All-American Game that he hopes to fill in some of the team’s gaps when he arrives on campus next month.
“I definitely see some of the pieces that they were missing,” said Cain. “It’s just really about the mindset, that’s something that coach Franklin and [running backs coach Ja’Juan] Seider have been stressing to me. They want dudes up there that want to dominate. I definitely liked the pitch they had for me when they recruited me and I think there’s an opportunity for me to come in and compete early since I’m enrolling early, and I have an opportunity to make an impact my freshman year.”
Cain admitted that he didn’t see himself at University Park even after his first trip north back in the spring, but the Nittany Lions’ relentless approach to his recruitment brought both Cain and his parents around to going away for college.
“After I went up there for my first visit in April, I liked it a lot. I didn’t really see myself going there at that time, but as time went on they started recruiting me harder and harder. I got my mom on board, she wasn’t on board at all. She was like, “that’s too far,” she wasn’t on board at all. I finally convinced her to go to the Lasch Bash in July and after that she loved it as well.”
Tonya Cain still wasn’t completely convinced that the best place for her son was a thousand miles away, however. It took additional convincing from Franklin and Seider to get her to come around during the fall.
“The biggest thing was trust. She trusted them the most. She trusted coach Seider and coach Franklin, my future and the stability,” he said. “When the USC rumors came up, we had a real good talk with coach Franklin about that. He told us that Penn State isn’t a job that you just go through, it’s a job you stay at until you retire. He gave us his word that he was gonna be there. After that we just went with it.”
It almost didn’t happen, as Lions247’s Tyler Donohue reported back on National Signing Day. Cain was almost ready to pull the trigger for Texas on Dec. 19, but a series of phone calls, including one with Seider just before he went on ESPN to announce his choice, swung him back to the Nittany Lions.
“I woke up a Texas lean on Signing Day. I called Penn State five minutes before I had to announce on ESPN, and those final five minutes were just really me sitting by myself, meditating on it, praying,” he explained. “I saw an opportunity for me to go to Penn State and just be different. It was kind of a frowned upon decision, but I’ve gotta do what is best for me and I can’t worry about what everybody else is saying.”
Cain is one of two four-star backs that the Nittany Lions signed in the Class of 2019. He met Virginia tailback and fellow All-American Devyn Ford on the first time on Saturday afternoon in Florida. The pair has big plans for the next few years.
“Taking over college football is the biggest thing,” Cain said when asked what the two talked about. “We’re trying to go out there and bring a different type of swag to the team and change the culture and start that winning vibe.”
And what is he aiming for that vibe to be?
“I want everybody to be a dawg, have that dawg mindset and mentality,” he said. “Go out there and dominate every play, every opponent we go against. I don’t want us to be an underdog, we need to go be a top dog every game. That’s what I’m trying to bring to the team.”
247Sports’ Brian Dohn contributed to this report.