Sure, when he visited University Park for the Nittany Lions mid-November contest with Indiana, the weather was a tad warmer, his companions differed and he was embarking on his official visit. But still, as he, his mother Gayle and sister Maddie finished up the final leg of a recent trip that began in Alabama, took a break in Washington, D.C., and finally landed them in Happy Valley, the 6-foot-5, 265-pound defensive end thought about what drew him to flip his commitment from Purdue to Penn State in the first place.
That, after all, was the goal Gayle had in mind when she hastily decided that she wanted to see University Park, and thought her son -- for weeks recruited heavily by Tennessee, Auburn, and Vanderbilt -- would benefit from it to.
He had so many people coming to school, and to his basketball games, and they were all trying to talk to him about their schools, she said. He's never said that he wanted to go anywhere else, but I just, to be honest, didn't see a lot in his eye about going to school or the future that I had seen for so long.
After he went to Penn State, all of the craziness started to weigh on him," she added. "It just occurred to me [recently] that I hadn't seen it, and I started to wonder, 'Why haven't I gone?'
The craziness Gayle Cothren refers to is the constant attention the FOX Sports NEXT three-start prospect received from a host of programs in the days after he committed to Bill O'Brien's program Nov. 21. Visits at school and at basketball games had become the norm for Cothren throughout much of December and January, even though he remained firmly committed to Penn State.
So it was, last Thursday night, that Gayle and her husband, Greg, decided that they couldn't afford not to take a final unofficial visit to University Park, and went about planning the trip. And though no doubts existed before, they most certainly do not now, after the Cothren family spent the weekend meeting with O'Brien and defensive line coach Larry Johnson, and touring the University Park campus as well as Beaver Stadium.
For a while, it was just crazy with having basketball every night, and having coaches call me while being committed to Penn State. At one point, we told every school I wasn't interested, but they kept coming. It was hard to keep my head clear and concentrate with all of that going on, Cothren said. But visiting last weekend, it really sealed the deal. I got to see everything again, and we ate dinner Saturday night as well as breakfast Sunday morning with Coach O'Brien and some other coaches, and did the whole tour.
Cothren will sign his National Letter of Intent Wednesday at 5:30 p.m. Eastern time in his high school cafeteria, and fax it off to University Park. But it very nearly could have been headed to West Lafayette. Gayle Cothren urged her son not to commit to Purdue so early in the recruiting process, but before the start of his senior season, Parker committed to head coach Danny Hope and the Boilermakers. Roughly four months later, though, and after an official visit to Purdue, Cothren's oldest brother, Hudson, dug up Larry Johnson's email address and shipped off his younger brother's highlight film. Shortly thereafter, a scholarship offer made it's way to Hazel Green, Ala,. from State College, and Cothren planned a visit to University Park. Days later, he committed.
Parker went up to visit, and I didn't expect him to do anything more then to go up there, visit and come home, Gayle Cothren said. Well, he went and fell in love with it. He kept telling me it was a hard place to describe, but that it was everything he always wanted out of a school. I wrote back to him -- we had been texting all day -- that, 'This is the bottom line, I want you to go somewhere where you glorify God and your family, and live up to your potential.' And his response was very simple, I still have it saved. He said, 'Then you want me to be up here with these guys.'
The senior will enroll at Penn State this summer. After recording 40 tackles and four sacks over his senior season, Cothren is excited about a few aspects of his play, as well as areas he can improve on once under the tutelage of Johnson and Penn State strength coach Craig Fitzgerald.
I really take pride in not allowing people to move me back. Even if I'm not going to make the tackle, you aren't going to move me, Cothren said. I think Coach Johnson will really help with my pass rush and I'm really excited to work with Coach Fitzgerald. I can't wait to get in there and see how big he can get me, and to have him push me. I saw some of the players from my official visit on my unofficial visit, and they already have gotten a lot bigger and look stronger.
When not in the weight room, Cothren spends his time on the hardwood, where Hazel Green is 20-8.
Basketball helps most with lateral movement; there's a lot of defensive stance and sliding, and it helps with conditioning a lot, Cothren said. It's not like football where you have a play then take a break. It helps with coordination, too.
It's been a long seven months for Parker Cothren. Throughout a process he described as irritating yet rewarding, he was named to the Huntsville Times Elite Eleven team, its first-team All-Metro squad, as well as Alabama's Class 6-A All-State firs- team defensive line. But more importantly, to he and his tight knit family, he found a home away from home, one he officially becomes a member of Wednesday.
I guess I first knew I wanted to go to Penn State when I walked into the stadium on game day and saw how electric the setting was, Cothren said. I love Coach Johnson. He's one of the best guys I've ever met, and his history; everyone knows he's the one of if not the best defensive line coach in the country. It's a great chance and opportunity to play for him.