When Penn State landed early verbal commitments from tight ends Jesse James and Brent Wilkerson, J.P. Holtz presumed, like many, that the Nittany Lions were probably done recruiting him.
"I didn't know what was going on,'' Holtz said. "I wasn't too sure.''
Holtz, though, had an ace up his sleeve: He could play a lot more positions than just tight end. He contacted his recruiter, Tom Bradley, his involvement with Penn State picked up again about a month ago and, on Friday, Shaler Area High School's 6-foot-4, 235-pound jack-of-all trades announced his commitment to the Nittany Lions through his Facebook page.
He's the 12th member of the Lions' 2012 recruiting class.
"I wanted to get [recruiting] over with before the season, and [playing for Penn State has] always been like a dream. When you're from Pennsylvania, it's a big thing,'' said Holtz, who has 14 Division I scholarship offers and picked the Nittany Lions over Purdue, Michigan State and Pitt. "It's like the perfect place to go to, especially for football, and it's a really good school, too. I'll get a good education. I knew it was the right choice.
"They're pretty much bringing me in as a big athlete,'' Holtz said just before leaving on a family vacation to the Outer Banks. "They like me as a linebacker, too.''
The funny thing is that, while most think Holtz's future is as a tight end, that's the position at which he saw the least time last season for the Titans.
"You don't have enough time for me to tell you what he's played,'' said Shaler coach Neil Gordon, whose been with the Titans four years after a 22-season stint at Penn Hills, where he coached former Nittany Lions like Anthony Morelli and Ron Graham.
When Shaler's top two tailbacks went down with injuries at the start of 2010, Gordon made Holtz his primary ballcarrier and sometimes used him as a wide receiver. As a freshman, Holtz stepped in at quarterback and guided the Titans to a WPIAL playoff win over Canon-McMillan and current Penn State linebacker Mike Hull.
In addition, he'll be starting at inside linebacker for the third year this fall.
"He's an excellent punter, as well,'' Gordon said.
Holtz scored two touchdowns and had the game-winning two-point conversion in Shaler's 22-21 upset of Bethel Park last season, just a week removed from scoring two rushing touchdowns, a receiving touchdown and a fourth TD on an interception return in a 35-28 victory over Hempfield.
"I like running back the best. I know that's not where I'm going to play, but that's what I like the best,'' Holtz said. "I like having the ball in my hands.''
Holtz's combination of size, 4.7ish 40-yard-dash speed and a 325-pound bench press have helped him excel playing all over the field, but his athleticism isn't the only factor. Holtz's father, Bob, played football at California, Pa. and used to be Shaler's head coach; he got J.P playing the game when he was only in second grade.
The younger Holtz filled a number of different roles on the field before moving up to varsity.
"I knew all of the positions,'' Holtz, who is also the starting center on the Shaler basketball team, said.
Holtz's initials are short for John Paul. He likes to go fishing in his free time and is considering majoring in criminal justice.