Evan Hailes was a self-professed bookworm until he reached senior high.
"Now, I'm more of a math wiz,'' Hailes said. "I'm really good with numbers.''
That goes for both in the classroom and on the football field.
n He's 6-foot-0 and 315 pounds and has been named Virginia all-state two times.
n Last season, as a junior, he had 81 tackles, including 20 for loss, 11 sacks and four passes defensed.
n He's ranked among the top 15 players in the country at his position.
n He's been offered an athletic scholarship by 30 colleges.
It makes you wonder if his nickname should be "The Count.''
The most important of those numbers today, though, is nine. That's the number of commitments in Penn State's 2010 class after Hailes, a defensive tackle from Oscar Smith High School in Chesapeake, gave a pledge during a visit to University Park with his parents and girlfriend Friday night, meaning the Nittany Lions have filled about half of their expected allotment of available scholarships.
"I just felt right. I felt really comfortable there. I'd seen my other options,'' said Hailes, who had Tennessee as his other finalist and also considered Virginia Tech, North Carolina State and LSU. "What attracted me [to Penn State] was that I had a lot of opportunities because of my grades and my test scores. Penn State emphasized the academics. They didn't say I'd be in the NFL in three years. They said I'd have my degree in three years.
"This is the first college I think my mother was impressed with. They asked questions and got answers. They didn't ask questions, they still got answers.''
Penn State, in turn, got a top-notch prospect to be its future one-technique tackle.
"I've never seen a 300-pound kid as athletic as he is. Physically, he has the tools. He moves like a defensive end,'' Oscar Smith coach Rich Morgan said. "Everybody loves the biggest kids that can run. He has that more than anybody I've seen. Everybody wants good character kids, too. That's why [college] coaches fall in love with him.''
Hailes, Morgan and Oscar Smith won the Division 6 (largest schools) state championship in 2008 with a perfect 15-0 record. Hailes only has been playing football since eighth grade - he was on the varsity by his freshman year and all-Virginia as a sophomore.
"I was big growing up. My coach told my mom he could get me into football. I guess he saw potential. I didn't play any other sports. I was a big bookworm,'' Hailes said.
Hailes had never been to Penn State before this weekend, but he, his mother, Sabrina, father, Carl, and girlfriend, Danielle Brown, toured the Penn State campus with the help of Jared Odrick, Brandon Ware and Kevin Newsome. He also got to meet former Lion Anthony Adams, with whom he is sometimes compared.
Hailes was no stranger to Newsome. The pair grew up together in suburban Norfolk along with Newsome's younger brother, Keevon.
"In high school, we played on rival teams,'' Hailes said. "My team is known as the top defensive team. His team has the best offense.''
Hailes is the second defensive lineman to commit to Penn State, joining Central York end Kyle Baublitz. The Lions are expected to bring in at least one more tackle and are heavily involved with Philadelphia's Sharrif Floyd and Johnson City, N.Y.'s DeQuan Jones.
Jones was one of a group of Penn State recruiting targets that were expected to be on campus this weekend, including State College wide receiver Alex Kenney and Michigan quarterback Robert Bolden. Speculation has swirled that all three could be on the verge of a commitment.
Quarterback Paul Jones and wideout Adrian Coxson, who already committed to Penn State, were also on hand.