CAMP HILL, Pa. — Adam Breneman knew when he made a verbal commitment to Penn State, it would be viewed as much more than just another Pennsylvania kid opting to stay close to home to play his college football.
So when the tough questions came, he was ready with answers.
I want to be a leader, he said. I want to start the healing process at Penn State.
Rated the top tight end in the nation by Scout.com, Breneman announced for the Nittany Lions at a press conference at his high school -- Cedar Cliff in Camp Hill, Pa. -- Friday night.
In doing so, the 6-foot-5, 230-pound junior became the most high-profile prospect to pick Penn State since the Jerry Sandusky scandal threw the university into turmoil in early November.
Asked about the scandal -- which led to the firing of Hall of Fame PSU coach Joe Paterno and a shakeup of the school's administration -- the 16-year-old Breneman tackled it head on.
I think what happened at Penn State over the past few months is a really terrible and tragic thing, he said. And I think it's really tragic that it happened to a school like Penn State, that's always had a great tradition.
I think that out of all the bad that happened, something good is going to come out of this, he added. I really think Penn State has started the healing process. And I really want to be a part of that, and bring the great tradition of football that Penn State fans deserve.
A first-team All-State pick by the Pennsylvania Football Writers, Breneman had scholarship offers from more than 30 major college programs. He narrowed his list to Penn State, Ohio State, Maryland and Notre Dame.
A lifelong PSU fan, he said he felt good about the school after meeting new head coach Bill O'Brien during a January visit. That didn't change in the weeks that followed, even though Breneman made a visit to Ohio State.
O'Brien, the former offensive coordinator of the New England Patriots, is credited with developing Patriot standout tight ends Rob Gronkowski and Aaron Hernandez. That was important to Breneman.
Coach O'Brien's offense is going to be very similar to what it was like in New England, Breneman said. I know there is going to be a lot of use of the tight end, which I'm excited about. It'll definitely be a very dynamic offense.
O'Brien's first full recruiting class, which can't sign until next February, is already four members strong. Also among the early commitments to Penn State is Scout.com four-star quarterback Christian Hackenberg from Virginia.
Breneman has gotten to know Hackenberg well through social media.
It's definitely a bonus when you know you're going to have a quarterback the caliber of Christian throwing you the ball, he said.
Now that Breneman is committed to Penn State, he said part of his leadership role in the class will be to convince other top prospects to follow him to Happy Valley. Among his primary targets is Pennsylvania's Robert Foster, who is considered the top wideout in the nation by Scout.com.
We're gonna put together one of the best classes in the country, Breneman said.