The whistles and horns that sounded throughout Penn State's Lasch football facilities on June 21 weren't for the current members of the Nittany Lions. They came from them, instead.
Scores of high school football athletes, vying for exposure and experience that could eventually land them on a collegiate team, participated in that weekend's football camps. Several more are scheduled for the summer, and it's a safe bet that, standing among the throngs of teenagers running drills, will be current members of the Nittany Lions.
You know who they are — if not by face, then by the khaki floppy hats and silver and Navy long-sleeve shirts. Many of the players worked at the camps that weekend, and at the end of the June 21 session, Donovan Smith, Kyle Carter and Geno Lewis pulled away as they watched their new head coach James Franklin congratulate the attendees for their hard work that afternoon.
A new NCAA rule allows current college players to work camps at their schools and even be paid for it. But this is clearly not about the money.
For Smith, the camps are “a chance to give back to the community. The guys really look up to us,” he said as he nodded toward the high schoolers. A few athletes stood out with towering height and bulk, but for the most part, Smith, at 6-foot-5 and 335 pounds, was much, much bigger.
Tight end Carter chuckled. “They're little guys. They start young.”
“Some of these guys are loose. I was never that little coming out of high school,” Lewis added. They laughed again, but Lewis was quick to add: “I give them credit for coming out here and trying to get better.”
The camps are a great recruiting tool and offer some valuable insights into collegiate coaching and expectations. Smith, Lewis and Carter all attended camps during high school, but their experiences were different. Smith recalled valuable learning experiences; Lewis only attended one or two — including one at Penn State — his four-star ranking and game tape significant enough; and Carter, who hails from Delaware, went to many, in an effort to make a name for himself, coming from such a small state.
"We take what we learn and give it back to them. And … we hound 'em a little."
“We take what we learn and give it back to them,” said Smith. “And … we hound 'em a little.”
Carter laughed. “Naw, man, no way.” He crossed his arms over his chest. “I don't do too much yelling -- just teaching them stuff that I learned in college. Because if I knew some of the stuff now that I knew back in high school -- I just know the game would be a lot easier. So I just try to pass that knowledge on.”
“You do think you know a lot of things,” Lewis added. “But you don't know that much at all. It's all good to come out here and help out.”
“I like the one-on-one drills,” Smith said. “That's where I make my money!”
“Your money!” Carter repeated with a laugh.
“I really like the one-on-one drills. Because we get to talk a little trash then to the younger DBs and we have our guys out here too, so we just talk trash,” Lewis added.
They laughed again.
“It's a good time, a fun time for everybody,” Lewis said.
“It's kind of like a flashback, so it's really cool,” Carter added, just as Franklin and his coaches dismissed the high schoolers. The trio bid their farewells and walked out of the indoor practice facilities, to their own weight-training facility.
They had their own drills to run.