When football prospects visit Happy Valley, the Penn State coaching staff likes to do what it can to make their stays enjoyable. But sometimes it helps when fate intervenes, too.
Take the case of Bunn, N.C., offensive lineman Ty Howle, who, along with his family, spent the long Easter weekend in State College. On Saturday, they went out to eat at a local sports-themed restaurant, with Nittany Lion assistant coach Larry Johnson and several PSU players.
And while there, Howle, a lifelong UNC basketball fan, was able to watch dreaded Tar Heel rival Duke lose a second-round NCAA Tournament game to West Virginia.
We're big basketball fans, so that was fun, Howle said.
It was a microcosm of his entire weekend, as everything went well.
Howle, his parents and his little sister arrived in State College Thursday night after driving straight through from North Carolina. They left late in the afternoon Monday, but not before Ty committed to the Nittany Lions.
And in doing so, he became the first member of Penn State's Class of 2009.
This was a big family decision, Howle said. We sat down this morning, my whole family, and we really felt there was no place I could go to get a better education. And we love the tradition of Penn State football. State College is just beautiful; it has a small-town feel but has everything you could look for in a city.
A 6-foot-3, 295-pounder, Howle also reported offers from Navy and East Carolina. He had a visit to Georgia Tech set for this week and anticipated an offer from the Yellow Jackets, but he has since canceled that trip.
Howle was Bunn's starting center last season and won first-team All-State and All-Conference honors. One of the reasons he committed early was so he can focus on his senior campaign.
I don't want to be a one-year wonder, he said. I want to have a great senior season and to help get the focus on my teammates.
Howle currently carries a 3.9 GPA in his core courses and overall GPA of 4.2 thanks to several honors classes he has completed. He intends to begin his college academic career in a general science major so he has options when he finally settles on a post-football profession. Right now his thoughts are ranging from chemical engineering to pre-med.
In the meantime, he has some other business to attend. It is said that all great offenses are anchored by a standout center. Howle hopes people are able to say the same thing about Penn State's Class of 2009.
It's definitely an honor being the first to commit, he said. It's just an honor being recognized by Penn State and having a chance to play for Coach [Joe] Paterno. I'd like to start this off as a strong class and get other great players to come to Penn State with me.
And that business about being a Carolina basketball fan?
I'm REALLY a Penn State football fan now, he said with a laugh.
For more on Ty Howle, including who he hung out with on his visit and what he thinks about Joe Paterno's future with the program, visit our TAP fourm (See the forum here.).