|Hometown/School:||Struthers, Oh. (Struthers HS)|
Jed Hill from Struthers HS in Struthers, Ohio didn't need any time to think about the written offer extended to him by Joe Paterno following his performance at Penn State's summer camp this past Monday. He accepted the offer immediately and will realize his dream to play for his favorite college team. Making him the eighth soon-to-be high school senior to accept a Nittany Lion scholarship offer. But who really is Jed Hill? LionNews talked with both Struthers HS coach, Gary Zetts, and Jed himself, to get the low down on his very interesting recruiting story.
At 6'4'' and 247 pounds, logic says that at least one recruiting guru would have been tipped off that Jed has potential to be a terrific college tight end. But according to Coach Zetts, that's not the case.
"No one knows about the kid. He moved into our community when he was a freshman. He never played football before. As a sophomore he played defensive end. Then last year he was ready to go and he got hurt all year. So he really didn't do a whole lot of anything. In fact, there is no tape on him."
"He played as a sophomore but didn't play a whole lot because he had never played football before. But Jay Paterno saw him when he was going to be a sophomore in our halls and said, 'you've got to be kidding me, who's that kid?' They said it's one of our football players but he hasn't done a whole lot. But he started writing him letters then. And then last he had a bad year because he was hurt all year and didn't do a thing. But he's 6-4, 245. Everything he does is unbelievable. He has great hands. He did 225 for 25 times, a 34 (inch) vertical, and ran a shuttle in 4.1 (at the Penn State camp). He's a total physical specimen, but he's never had an opportunity to show it on the field," explained Coach Zetts.
"The defensive coordinator at Nebraska, Bo Pellini, came in and he said I keep on hearing about this kid and I want to see this kid. He said that (Jed's) a freak of nature. He's mammoth. There's no body fat on him. He's just something else. (Coach Pellini) said to him, 'if you come to Nebraska's camp, I promise you I will offer you.' (Jed) called him today and told him that he has already committed to Penn State. They were his first true love about going somewhere."
Coach Zetts believes that Penn State did an excellent job selling their program and one coach in particular really stood out in Jed's mind.
"Jay Paterno's the real reason that Penn State has him. The Michigan coach came in and saw him and he goes, 'that kid's a real freak of nature.' We were throwing at 7 o'clock in the morning and Jed's running routes and catching balls. And he said, 'no one's recruiting a kid who looks like him.' Tim Spencer came in from Ohio State and said they're not recruiting anyone who looks like him. But everyone said to send me a tape but I told them there is nothing to send. But Paterno saw the kid as a sophomore and liked what he saw."
Zetts continued, "Everyone wanted him to come to their camp and they said when our head coach sees you, we guarantee you you'll be offered. That was Wisconsin, Michigan State, all the Big Ten Schools, the Big East schools like Pittsburgh and West Virginia. Syracuse and Boston College came in to see him."
"But he's gone to Penn State so many times that it's unbelievable. He would go up almost every home weekend to watch Penn State play. Again, it was because of Jay Paterno, who saw the kid in the hallway as a freshman," reiterated Zetts. "He said, 'if Penn State offers me that's where I want to go because they make me feel at home.'"
The Nittany Lions did offer Jed, giving him a written offer which he brought to Struthers HS to show Coach Zetts.
"He only went (to Penn State camp) for the one day. Jay Paterno called me and said, 'hey, we need some tight ends and I love Jed, but we need him to come up to finalize this whole thing.' So he went up there and worked out for them. Then Joe Paterno called him in and said we want you."
Penn State will be the only school that Jed will camp at now that he has cancelled his Nebraska visit. Did he visit any other schools with Coach Zetts this spring?
"I took him down to West Virginia to look at the campus and all that. He said it's nice but he kept on saying that if Penn State offers that's where I'm going. He was all booked up. He was going to go to Nebraska but he called the guy today and said I'm not going to come because I'm committed. His whole goal was 'I'm going to Penn State.'"
Last year was a real struggle for Jed, suffering freak injury after freak injury.
"We were at a passing camp at the end of July and he broke his hand. Two helmets collided on his hand. So he wasn't allowed to do a whole lot. Then the second game, he was ready to go and he broke his ankle (his fibula above the ankle). So then after four weeks of that, he tried to come back and he hobbled along. He played, but there's nothing to show that he's really good. He would play a series and then come out the rest of the game," explained Coach Zetts.
"He was going to play fullback for us last year and some inside linebacker. This year he's going to be a tight end for us and linebacker."
Coach Zetts believes that if Jed had played his junior year, he would have been in every database on every network months ago.
"No one knows about him. I get all this stuff off the internet that says this kid's a four star and this kid's a five star, he'd be a no star because no one knows about him. If you looked at this kid, you'd be totally amazed at what he looked like. Every coach that came in said there is no one recruiting a kid who looks like him because he's unbelievable, admitted Coach Zetts, who attributes Jed's athletic abilities to the variety of sports he competes in--basketball, tennis, and boxing. "He's got unbelievable hands. When you look at him, you say here's some stiff human being. But he's not stiff at all, he's a very agile kid."
Jed has already qualified for freshman eligibility in college and has actually already begun to plan out his college schedule, even though he will enroll at Penn State for another whole year.
"I'm going to start school up there in June. I'm going to go up there for summer school. I'm going to go ahead and start some of my classes early so I can get some of the weight off of me during the football season," explained Jed, who plans to major in Criminal Justice.
While he hopes getting some early classes will take some weight off his shoulders in college, he admitted that making an early college decision has already allowed him to sleep a little easier at night. How did Jed become the Nittany Lions' eight verbal of this spring?
"I went there Sunday and spent the night there to get some sleep. On Monday morning at 7:30 I woke up, went out there, and started performing for them. I performed for about 6 hours. I guess they talked to Coach Paterno. He wrote a letter to me and sent it down. It basically said that we've been watching you over the last couple hours and we know you have what it takes to become a Big Ten superstar. It said we're going to offer you a full ride, athletic scholarship and if you want to take it you can come up here to his office. Well I was tripping up the stairs to get up there," said Jed with a laugh. "I went up there and talked to him for a little and he offered me. He said 'What do you have to say about that?', and I said that I'm kind of of speechless. He said 'I hope you say yes' and I was like 'of course I'm saying yes.' So I committed there and it's home now for the next four or five years."
Jed certainly "performed" better than most campers do, lifting and running his way into an instant Nittany Lion fan favorite.
"(The 4.7 forty time) was with cleats on a grass field. Usually everyone runs them on a track, so it was a little lower than usual. On a track I run a 4.65," stated Jed.
Suffering through his injury plagued junior season has definitely motivated Jed, making his scholarship offer by Penn State so much sweeter.
"(Sophomore season) I got looked at a little bit by Penn State and a couple other schools. My junior year I got hurt. "I was running the ball and I got tackled. Somebody put their helmet right into my ankle. It actually cracked my fibula bone. I was in a cast for 6 weeks. So no one had heard of me, so it was kind of like all the weight was on my shoulders for my senior year to come out and perform up to my expectations to become a superstar or whatever. I didn't get to it last year, so there was a lot of pressure to get a scholarship. So I just hung in the weight room and conditioned all off season. When coaches came to see another player at our school (OL Justin Decker), they came and took a glance at me and said your some specimen, I had coaches within the country talking and calling me, telling me they would like to see me at camps. But I chose Penn State because it's my favorite college team; I never thought I'd be playing for them," explained Jed, who continued, "Getting hurt is not an option this year."
Jed had also received offers from MAC teams like Miami of Ohio and Bowling Green, schools that are also looking closely at his fraternal twin, Jeremiah.
"He's a 6-1, 280 lineman," said Jed, whose real name is Jedediah. "He's looking at Ysu (Youngstown State) and a couple MAC schools. I'm hoping we'll get a chance to play against each other because Penn State plays a MAC school almost every year and they change it up."
Like Coach Zetts, Jed expected to get offers from the big boys if he went on a whirl wind tour of college summer camps.
"I was going to fly down (to Nebraska) and they said it was a for sure thing that they would offer me. The Cornhuskers are great and everything, but should I go there or someplace where my friends and everybody could see me play, plus (Penn State's) my favorite school," stated Jed, who said Penn State is a mere two and a half hours away from the Youngstown area. "I went there for the spring game. (The coaches) told me they definitely want me to come back. They were basically all over me wanting me to come back. (JayPa) came to the school and told Coach Zetts they want me to come back the 16th."
Last season, Jed attended two Nittany Lion home game, watching Penn State destroy both Northwestern and Michigan State. The destruction of Penn State's opponents in those two games were similar to the destruction Jed inflicts inside the boxing ring. How did he get involved with such a unique sport?
"There was actually a guy in our area who said, 'it looks like you could pack a pretty hard punch.' And I said, 'I don't know, do you want to find out,' just messing around with him. He said he did and asked me to come down and box at the Knockout Program. So I went down and won all five of my matches and the heavy weight bout, so I won a belt for it two years in a row," explained Jed, who shared his ring stories with his future head coach.
"When I first got there (into Joe's office), we talked about boxing. He said he used to box in the Army and said they have a boxing program, so he used to box at Penn State. He said he would like me to get involved in that also."
First though, JoePa and co. plan to get Jed involved with football, hoping he can make an immediate impact on a position that could be wide open at the time of his arrival.
"They didn't talk about redshirting. They said it's going to be a battle between the tight ends they recruit competition wise. I can catch the ball well, I can block well. I just need to work on whatever they want me to work on. I'm all (Penn State's) for the next four or five years," said Jed.
How does he feel now that he's a part of one of the most storied program in college football history?
"I couldn't believe it. I'm still wiping my eyes to see if I'm going to wake up. It's a dream come true. I've always wanted to play for them, even since I was a little kid."
(Interviews by Steve Curry)