Author’s note: I chose to write about this because my father has been one of the biggest influences on my athletic career. He accomplished a feat that not many people can say they did back in the 1980s. His story is inspiring to me and hopefully it is to many others. He left a great mark on his football team and his school, and I would like to do the same.
It was a hot day in the beginning of summer when Steve’s alarm rang. It was time for him to take another step in making his final decision for college. His senior year was winding down, and this was one of the final days. He had done great in school all year. His grades were perfect, perfect enough to get into the places he wanted. However, Steve was looking to do more than just school after high school. He was looking to play college football. The 5-foot-10, 165 pound quarterback at Chief Logan was trying to be one of the few people that could play division one football.
Steve had three schools in his mind: West Point, the Naval Academy, and the hometown favorite, Penn State. After getting many letters about other schools, he finally had it narrowed down to these three. There was West Point and the Naval Academy, great schools where he could play quality football, but he could also get the chance to serve his country. And then there was Penn State. The Nittany Lions were the top dogs. They had just won a national championship, and they wanted him. How could he turn that offer down? Even better, how could anyone turn that down? The only bad thing about Penn State was that he had to walk-on. He wouldn’t be going for free. But would that be enough to turn him away?
Steve was an all-around solid football player. He brought all the tools necessary to be the best he could be. He had great leadership; guys would turn to him when things got tough. He played with a tremendous amount of heart; he was always involved in the play. But the only thing that people questioned was his size for division one football. The man was only 5-foot-10, 165 pounds. Very few people looked at him and thought of a stereotypical college quarterback. But that’s not what Steve wanted. He was the kind of guy that wanted what was best for the team, and he was capable of doing whatever the team needed because he was an outstanding athlete. And that was probably his most astonishing trait. This trait caught the eye of many coaches. He played all over the field: quarterback, defensive back, kicker and punter. His versatility was what led to many of his college offers.
Everyone in town had heard of the high school hero; he had been named to many all-league, all-state and all-conference teams. He had just recently won the county’s award for most outstanding football player. It was just another accolade under Steve’s belt. He was sitting right where he needed to be going into his final decision. He could not wait to finally come out and announce his final pick.
After a few days and a few more phone calls from numerous coaches, Steve and his parents sat down and had a talk. This talk involved what they thought. They obviously wanted what was best for their son, but he was the youngest child, and this was hard for them. They had already gone through the recruiting process with his older brother, who went on to play football at Shippensburg and also set some records while he was there. But this time it was different; he was their baby, the last child that lived at home. They wanted to keep him as close to home as possible. At the beginning of the conversation, they talked about the athletic end of things. Steve raved and raved about the opportunity to play under one of the best coaches to ever walk the face of the Earth, Joe Paterno. But they also talked about his chances of actually playing if he chose to go there. Both his parents and him knew that he would have to work extra hard to see time on the field there. But that would fit in to what Steve loved to do. He didn’t like the easy route; he loved to work for what he got. He had done it his whole high school career. If he chose one of the two military academies, his chances of seeing time increased tremendously. They were smaller athletic programs where he would fit in more. That was an easy route to success. Also in the conversation, they talked about the academic end of things. Penn State had a great academic experience. They offered each one of his choices of majors, they had top-tier professors and always pushed for excellence. At West Point, the opportunity was there for him academically, but he would also have to be in a seriously fit physical condition. And the same went for the Naval Academy; they were very similar schools. They continued to talk that day about what they each liked. And they came to some similarities, but also had some differences. But still after this day-long talk, he had no final decision. His time was slowly running out.
The next day Steve was in the gym when his high school football coach stopped him and asked, “So do you know yet?”
And of course, the quarterback did not have his choice made, so he gave him a simple, “No I don’t, coach.” But then something deep down told him to ask his coach for his opinion. So he asked coach, and he gave him an answer that he wanted to hear. He said, “You never were really satisfied with being good enough. You have always wanted to push yourself to be great, and to continue to do that at a school like Penn State would be the obvious choice.” He took this advice into some serious consideration. Steve was slowly, but surely nearing a decision.
After a few weeks passed, it was time for the decision. It was set for noon at the high school. Steve was as excited as he’d ever been. He couldn’t wait to make the final call. He was ready to get that pressure off his shoulders.
At noon, his family and close friends gathered in the gym awaiting the big news. It was time. He had three hats set on a table, one with the Nittany Lion on it, one with the Army logo on it, and one with the Navy logo. He was going to pick the hat of the school that he had chosen. Sitting next to his parents and siblings, he finally picked up the Penn State cap and put it on his head. He was finally relieved. All the buildup had finally come to an end. Steve was a Nittany Lion. He was ready to take the next step.