Falling in Love Again
First impressions can be key in college football recruiting. Second impressions, too. Just asked Bayside Academy (Daphne, Ala.) linebacker Jonathan Walton. Walton swelled Penn State's Class of 2013 by one early Sunday morning, issuing his pledge to Nittany Lion head coach Bill O'Brien before departing University Park after a three-day official visit. “I've been talking to them since the summer, and I just fell in love with the place again when I went up there,” Walton said Monday from his home in Alabama. “This time, I got a better feeling for everything, and I loved it up there and just ended up committing.” The 6-foot-1, 235-pounder first was put in contact with Penn State when Nittany Lion defensive coordinator Ted Roof visited Bayside last spring. A verbal scholarship offer soon followed, preceding Walton's first trip to University Park in June for one of Penn State's Advanced Skill Camps. The high school senior came away impressed, but had yet to visit University Park again until last weekend, after previous trips to Minnesota and Louisiana-Lafayette. “I wasn't planning on committing, but like I said, I just fell in love with the place and locked it up,” Walton said. “I called my mom to tell her, and I think she was a little bit surprised, but I think she also knew it was coming but just didn't know when.” The “when” was expedited by the connection he felt with not only the staff, but other verbal commits, as well. “I love this class. I mean, a guy like [Fork Union, VA quarterback] Christian [Hackenberg] is the number one QB in the nation, and he was cool,” Walton said. “I just really like the atmosphere and people there, and they really picked some good kids for the Class of 2012.” And the staff? “I told Coach O'Brien about my commitment first, and then we went down and talked to Coach Roof,” Walton said. “They were both really excited, and all the coaches are just so down to Earth and have great personalities.” Though he's been projected as a linebacker for most of his recruitment, his bruising build could land him some time on offense. “The staff told me they with my athletic ability and size, I can probably play inside or outside [linebacker] depending on where my size goes,” Walton said. “But they also said they might look at me on offense, depending if my weight goes up or down. I played some fullback near the end of the season for my high school team, so it really wouldn't matter to me which position I play.” He also wouldn't be opposed to a redshirt season, either. “It really all depends on how things go. If I could graduate early, I'd have a better chance of learning the system and plays earlier,” Walton said. “But I can't do that at my school, so I wouldn't be opposed to a redshirt year so that I can get adjusted to the system and speed of the game and all of that.” Walton, currently listed as a FOX Sports NEXT two-star prospect, is willing to let the ride take him where it will. And whether his position or size change, he's positive that his on-field demeanor will not. “I play hard no matter what, that's just the way I play,” Walton said.