Twenty years ago, Kyle Gaines played linebacker for Ted Roof at Duke.
Now Gaines' history-minded nephew, Kasey, seems to be making playing defense for Roof a family tradition, although he hadn't even met Roof until a few months ago.
Roof continued to draw on his southern ties by getting the younger Gaines, a Georgia defensive back who is no stranger to big time football for a number of reasons, to become the most recent recruit to commit to Penn State. Gaines informed the Nittany Lions of his intentions on Sept. 19, although the word didn't break until late last week.
Gaines is the 10th member of Penn State's 2013 recruiting class.
"I figured it would be a great opportunity to be part of the tradition up there. I love Coach Roof, and I love Coach [Bill] O'Brien, especially what he is doing with the program, besides all the sanctions and everything," Gaines said. "I'm so blessed to be part of that team. Coach Roof has been in touch with me all through the summer. He really made me feel welcome there and wanted there."
The 5-foot-10, 165-pound Gaines had offers from Miami of Ohio, Harvard, Presbyterian, Howard and VMI. Recently, he has begun to draw increasing attention from Wisconsin. He joins Alabama native Neiko Robinson and Washington, D.C.'s Jordan Smith as defensive backs in this Lion recruiting class.
Playing on a Grayson High School team that includes more than a half-dozen Division I college prospects - including 2013 No. 1 defensive line target Robert Nkemdiche - Gaines led the Rams with 93 tackles and five interceptions, one of which he returned for a deciding touchdown in the final half-minute of a 14-7 win over Brookwood to decide the regional championship. Grayson went on to post six shutouts on its way to capturing the Georgia Class AAAA title.
Gaines was picked as the Gwinnett County defensive player of the year by the Atlanta Journal-Constitution. Nkemdiche was overall player of the year.
"We're a 3-4 defense, and he's kind of the quarterback of the making all the calls at safety. But he can also roll up into man coverage. He's just a great athlete that's why we use him a little bit at corner, as well, if the other team has a good receiver," Grayson coach Mickey Conn said. "Really, really fast, athletic kid, and then he's got the brains to go with it.
"He makes plays, and he always seems to do it in crucial moments."
Part of that might be because Gaines has been around so much high-level football for so long. In addition to having an uncle who played in the ACC and being part of one of the most talented teams in the country, Gaines' older brother, Kori, signed with BYU out of high school. He himself has been playing in the secondary since taking up the sport in third grade.
Gaines didn't know anything about his Uncle Kyle's college coach, though. Fortunately for Gaines, Roof knew about him and made a spring stop at Grayson to find out more, eventually inviting him to Penn State's summer camp.
Gaines wasn't sure if it would be worthwhile, initially.
"Before we made the trip up there, we spoke with him to see if it would be worth all the money, worth all the time. So, we made a decision as a family to go up there," Gaines said.
Gaines ran his best ever 40-yard dash time - 4.4 - and felt he played well in coverage. That seemed to have been confirmed by the scholarship offer with which Penn State presented him in August.
However, Gaines still found himself having to weigh the Nittany Lions' offer with one from academic elite, Harvard. Conn describes Gaines as having a genius-level intellect, and school definitely seems like something that's very important in his life: While he'll probably major in business in college, his favorite high school subject is history because "it's cool learning about how we came to be who we are today; I just enjoy learning about that stuff."
"It was definitely a very difficult decision. Harvard is once-in-a-lifetime," Gaines said. "But, that wasn't a sure-thing right now. They don't offer athletic scholarships, so I'd still have to get accepted. I saw in Penn State - and the opportunity to play at a big-time school like that - is also once in a lifetime."
It might come around more often, though. Gaines said Wisconsin still was recruiting him fairly hard last week, and, as more colleges flock to Grayson to see him and his teammates, the odds that other big-time colleges could offer increases.
"I can't say for sure right now," Gaines said of how seriously he would entertain other offers, "but I'm not the type to go back on my word."