Without a doubt, there is a need for versatility in the Nittany Lions' budding run-on program. And Wednesday, another multitalented recruit bolstered the fold, as North Allegheny High [Wexford. Pa.] receiver Gregg Garrity chose to continue his father Gregg's legacy and join the Nittany Lions.
I've been thinking pretty hard since Sunday [Jan. 20, a PSU Run-On Day] when I visited there, and seeing the facilities and everything, it blew me away, Garrity said. I've been thinking about if any other school would offer, if I'd even be interested, and I didn't think I would be. Penn State blew me away.
Standing 5-foot-10, 150 pounds, the younger Garrity can look his father directly in the eye. But that doesn't stop the high school senior from looking up to the former Nittany Lion, best known for The Catch in the 1983 Sugar Bowl that helped Penn State knock off Georgia 27-23 for the national championship.
As fate would have, the elder Garrity also entered the program as a walk-on.
I've really been waiting my whole life to make this decision like my dad did, Garrity said. He's really my role model, and I wanted to be like him my whole life. It just took me one step closer to his legacy.
The younger Garrity was a sparkplug for the PIAA AAAA state champion Tigers last fall, leading his team with 67 catches for 1,240 yards and 18 touchdowns. He came onto Nittany Lion quarterbacks coach Charlie Fisher's radar well before North Allegheny's 63-28 title clinching win over Coatesville, but it was something he did there that further intrigued Penn State.
I think I can bring multiple things, not only as a slot receiver, but on special teams returning punts, Garrity said. I've returned punts my whole life, and they saw me at the state championship game have a pretty good kick return. From that, they said that I catch the ball very naturally, and want to try me out there once I get up there.
The natural feeling is not common to all kick returners -- see Gerald Hodges, 2012 season -- but for an athlete who has returned kicks from the time he was a child, it is. It goes hand in hand with his wide receiver duties, another spot on the field where he feels plenty relaxed.
It's all about trusting yourself with returning, and after 12 years, it's become kind of natural for me over the years. Not just catching it, but securing it, too, Garrity explained. You have to trust yourself and your hands to catch it. It's like playing wide receiver, in a way. There, I feel like I run good routes and have pretty good hands, and can get yards after the catch, too.
Garrity called Fisher to inform the PSU staff of his decision.
My dad wanted me to wait until afterward, but I told him I was thinking, Garrity said. I called Coach Fisher and told him, and he said it was awesome. My dad was all for it, too. Coach Fisher has a great personality. It's not too laid back, but not too outgoing, either. He's really easy to talk to, and after a few conversations, I felt really comfortable with him.
With comfort as a common tone, it will be just a few short months until he is getting comfortable at University Park, where, just like his dad, he hopes to catch on, too.
The campus and the environment really stand out, Garrity said, adding I've been going to games throughout my whole life, and in my opinion, it's the best college atmosphere in the whole country, and to even be considered to play there is an honor.