PARKERSBURG — Happy Valley became a little more joyous after the Nittany Lions’ football team added another talented student-athlete to the 2019 recruiting class after a Wednesday afternoon ceremony inside Parkersburg High School’s Memorial Fieldhouse.
Four-star recruit and the Mountain State’s top-ranked tight end and third-ranked player overall, according to Scout.com and 247Sports.com, Brenton Strange inked his National Letter of Intent to NCAA Division I Penn State University.
The party officially kicked off two months after Strange gave his Oct. 10 verbal commitment to the Big Ten squad coached by James Franklin. His decision comes four years removed from the first time he stepped on the varsity football field against George Washington weighing 180 pounds and needing to put on some muscle. Recollection providing humor to the Nittany Lion who acknowledges many may not have envisioned this day for him.
“It was always my dream to play college football or basketball,” he said. “I ended up liking football more and I always saw myself being able to get where I am today.”
Strange, a 6-foot-5, 215-pound senior, made his selection from over 20 Division I schools with serious interest from fellow Big Ten teams Ohio State and Purdue as well as Independent Notre Dame. An unofficial July visit was followed up by an official trip to campus where he watched from the sidelines during the Nittany Lions’ Sept. 29 loss to Ohio State.
“To be honest it was always Penn State from the moment they offered me,” said Strange on his decision. “I felt like I was at home and everyone treated me right and I really fit in there.
“I liked how they used their tight ends as pass catchers and not just as blockers.”
Strange leaves PHS as one of the best wide receivers in the history of the program. He holds multiple school records including: most passes caught in a game (12), the top two best yardage totals (2017, 18), most touchdown catches in season (12 in 2017), the career receiving yardage leader (2,822 yards) and tied for the longest touchdown reception in school history with Dan Fox (his mark coming on an 88-yard screen completion from Kam Mace against Huntington in 2017).
This past year may have been his most impressive. Despite missing the first two games of the season because of a hamstring injury suffered in a scrimmage and blanketed with double coverage when he returned to the field, Strange surpassed the 1,000-yard receiving mark with 8 touchdowns proving to be an unstoppable force for everyone on the Big Reds’ schedule.
No moment proved too big for him as he shined against 2018 state champion Martinsburg in a second-round playoff game in November. Facing the caliber of talents he is likely to see during his time in the Quaker State, Strange hauled in 8 passes for 112 yards, including a 14-yard touchdown pass against the top-ranked Bulldogs.
His outstanding contributions to the Big Reds best season since the 2007 state championship winning team earned him all-state first-team honors as a receiver/end and a second-place finish in the 2018 Randy Moss Award voting, an award given to the top receiver in the state.
Despite or because of his immense talent, Penn State isn’t just getting a capable athlete who can make an impact on the field. They acquired the services of an unselfish, smart athlete who works hard at what he does to get better every day as told by Parkersburg High head coach Mike Byus.
“He has all the intangibles,” said Byus on Strange. “He is not just talented kid. There are a lot of talented kids but he has the work ethic and he is a good kid who works hard and didn’t just coast through high school on his ability. He worked hard every day. I loved it because I could use that as an example for my other kids. I could say ‘Look, this guy is a Division I talent and look how hard he is working every day.’ He has great character and the ability to overcome adversity too.”
While Strange is undecided on a major, he gave business and kinesiology, or the study of human movements, as two possibilities.
He begins his time in Pennsylvania on Jan. 5 as an early enrollee. The benefit to him as a football player is the acquisition of a playbook and opportunity to improve in the weight room where he needs to in order to get a head start on a possible four-year playing career without a redshirt.
“I am definitely ready to get the college experience going,” said Strange. “It is something new I haven’t done before but I am excited also.”