By Philip Cmor
There might have been one overriding reason fans and experts alike thought blue-chip offensive line prospect Eric Shrive of Scranton was not likely to end up a Penn State Nittany Lion.
It was pretty well known Shrive’s childhood favorite was someone other than the Lions. Someone just as interested in getting Shrive’s signature on a letter-of-intent in February.
“I was actually,’’ Shrive said, “a Notre Dame fan growing up.’’
Shrive has certainly grown up; he’s now a little taller than 6-foot-7 and 297 pounds. However, when it came time for the West Scranton High School star to choose a college, he picked up the phone and called Penn State’s Joe Paterno on Thursday morning instead of Fighting Irish coach Charlie Weis.
“He [Paterno] was excited as much as I was,’’ Shrive said of the call.
Looking over Shrive’s resume, it becomes easy to understand Paterno’s enthusiasm. Both major recruiting services list Shrive as one of the top 70 senior prospects in the country — Scout.com ranks him 23rd overall, third as an offensive tackle. In addition to his size, he runs the 40-yard dash in 5.1 seconds.
He bench presses 350 pounds. He squats 450. And his reputation is that he has the attitude to make the best use of all those attributes.
‘‘When you watch his film, you notice not only that he moves well, but he’s really aggressive,’’ West Scranton coach Mike DeAntona said Thursday afternoon.
Shrive was first-team Class AAA all-state as a junior and first-team Scranton Times-Tribune all-region. His team went all the way to the state quarterfinals before Garnet Valley ended the Invaders season at 12-2. Shrive blocked for a 1,400-yard rusher and a 2,400-yard passer from the right tackle spot in DeAntona’s multiple offense.
Shrive had 32 scholarship offers, including Ohio State, Auburn, Florida State, Georgia, Michigan, Miami, Tennessee, Virginia, Oklahoma and Rutgers. Notre Dame and Illinois were considered the front-runners by some.
‘‘I just knew Penn State was the place for me when I established a relationship with the coaches,’’ Shrive said. ‘‘It’s only two hours from my house. They have great facilities.’’
Not only did Shrive grow up a Notre Dame fan, but his father is a Notre Dame fan, and the Scranton area has a big Fighting Irish fan base. Still, Shrive, who visited 10 prospective colleges between last season and this spring and attended the 2007 Notre Dame/Penn State game at Beaver Stadium, didn’t feel pressured to play for his childhood favorite.
‘‘Yes, [this is] at big Notre Dame community, but it’s probably a bigger Penn State community,’’ Shrive said.
DeAntona said he wasn’t surprised Shrive wound up picking Penn State, which had recently sent a contingent of coaches, including Dick Anderson, Mike McQueary and Bill Kenney to his high school. The timing, though, shocked almost everyone who was following the star lineman’s recruitment.
‘‘I wasn’t caught off guard with his commitment to Penn State. I just didn’t realize it was going to happen [Thursday]. But Eric got to see a lot of places in the last few months. Penn State was always up there for him,’’ DeAntona said.
One obvious question that raises is if everyone thought another college was Shrive’s leader and that Shrive would wait to make a decision, is there a chance he could change his mind between now and Signing Day. Verbal commitments aren’t binding.
Shrive, though, seeked to dispell that notion.
‘‘I’m ending the recruiting. It’s 100 percent,’’ Shrive said of his commitment. ‘‘I’m not even talking to [any recruiters] anymore.
That doesn’t mean Shrive won’t do some recruiting of his own. By Friday, he said he’d already been in touch with several of the other seven players that had verbally committed to the Lions. Now, he is going to talk to some uncommitted players Penn State would like to bring in.
‘‘Yes, definitely,’’ Shrive said. ‘‘We want to bring in the best class we can.’’