Penn State is used to going head to head with top national programs for football recruits.
When it came to Troy Reeder, though, the Nittany Lions were recruiting against another sport, too.
A year ago, Reeder gave a verbal commitment to North Carolina to play lacrosse. Maryland, Duke and Princeton's lacrosse teams pursued him, too.
Penn State, though, has had a lot of success of its own when it comes to attracting and developing linebackers over the years, and the Lion coaches managed to get the 6-foot-3, 232-pound all-state player from Salesianum School in Wilmington, Del. to change his mind last month following a visit.
"It was probably my top school going into the visit, but I was talking about when I wanted to decide, and I was saying I wanted to decide before summer. And after that visit and everything I saw there, I knew there wasn't going to be a spot that I found that would satisfy me any better. I knew this is where I wanted to be, and I was certain of it, so I wanted to make the commitment now," Reeder, who couldn't be reached by the Mirror, told Josh Moyer of ESPN's Nittany Nation website.
"Along with the visit, everything was just so impressive. My family and I got to sit down with Coach [Bill] O'Brien, and he talked about where the program was going. He told me he was going to see everyone at Penn State through all the sanctions and that he would be there for my career, so that was really huge. I have so much respect for him, and I talked to Coach [Ron] Vanderlinden a lot. He's a great, great guy."
To hear Salesianum coach Bill DiNardo, Reeder made a wise choice, because he's something of a natural when it comes to football.
"He's skilled enough to play safety. He's athletic enough to ply outside linebacker. He's tough enough to play inside linebacker. He's strong enough that he could put his hand in the dirt and play on the defensive line," DiNardo said. "He's a big, athletic kid. He's very cerebral. He could play anywhere on the field."
DiNardo isn't kidding. He's started Reeder since his freshman year and played him at a variety of positions in both 4-4 stack and 3-4 defenses. By the time he was a sophomore, Reeder was a second-team all-Delaware player. As a junior, he was first-team all-state on a 10-2 team even though he missed several games with an injured foot and his numbers were down a bit.
"He was a dominant force," DiNardo said. "Most teams ran away from him. He's as good across the field as he is when people run at him. He just gets to the ball really well."
Not only that, but Reeder has excelled on offense, too. Last season, he played running back and was picked third-team all-state. However, as a sophomore and a freshman, he played quarterback for the Sallies.
"He was a Tim Tebow-type of kid as a sophomore at quarterback," DiNardo said. "We just felt it was in his and our best interest long-term to play him at running back. People just bounce off him.
"Every day he impresses and amazes me."
DiNardo said Reeder projects as an inside linebacker in college, and it's been reported that he'll be the only player Penn State recruits at that position in this recruiting class.
"I'm a pretty big guy and I can play linebacker on the inside and outside. I played defensive end and safety this year, too," Reeder told Nittany Nation. "I think they see I can cover some of the best receivers in my league, and I think that's a big help, because Penn State wants me to play the middle linebacker position. I think what they saw is I could do one-on-one in coverages."
Reeder also had scholarship offers from schools like Miami, Pitt, Boston College, Rutgers, Virginia and Vanderbilt when he committed to Penn State. Vandelinden, the Lions' linebackers coach, handled his recruitment, and the chance to work with him was a big incentive for Reeder to head to Happy Valley.
"I would say that was a really, really big thing," Reeder said. "I've watched his videos, and my dad has his book. I've been coached by him at camp, and the one thing that I feel makes him such a great coach is his attention to detail and the little things and how they make you a great player. He's produced great linebackers in the past, and he has a great track record. I had the chance to be coached by him, and just doing it at camp one day, I was able to learn some things. So I think he and I together will really be able to refine my game make me the best I can be."
Reeder said, though, that Vanderlinden's presence was more the icing
on the cake than the deciding factor.
"I know things change. And, if anything were to happen, I need to know that I'm at a place where I'm happy even if I didn't have football," Reeder said. "I think something that makes Penn State really special is that at this time with their program, they're playing for a lot more than just wins.
"I want to help make a difference in their program no matter how early it is. I want to get out and help Penn State in their new chapter."