|Hometown/School:||East Meadow, Ny. (East Meadow HS)|
No one would ever mistake New York with its neighboring states Ohio, Pennsylvania, or New Jersey when comparing the volume of blue chip football players each has produced. Despite its high population and wide expanse of area, New York does not rank as a talent hotbed. However, with names like Jim Brown and Shane Conlan comprising its past and Ohio State's Will Smith and Miami's Leon Williams a part of its current college crop, New York should not be overlooked when searching for talent.
East Meadow HS's Rich Ohrnberger is one of a handful of highly sought-after prospects in the Empire State this year, despite playing for a very poor team last season.
"We had a 1-7-1 record. We finished with probably one of the worst records in our conference, but despite of all that I just try to keep focused and do my job on the field and hope that everyone does theirs," explained Rich.
He does focus very well in fact, recording 64 pancakes from his offensive tackle spot and 48 tackles, 3 sacks, and 14 tackles for loss from his defensive end spot.
Does Rich see a successful, winning senior season in his future?
"Absolutely. I completely feel we have one of those teams. A lot of young kids, but experienced kids. [We] have a lot of juniors and sophomores that already have a year or two under their belt returning in our backfield. We also have a strong defensive line coming back and our offensive line is shaping up to be a force to be reckoned with. It feels good. The weight room is packed with kids, so I'm really excited for the season. I'm looking forward to winning a lot of games," said an enthusiastic Rich.
While Ohrnberger is hoping for more team success in the fall, individually, he has had a very successful summer when it comes to impressing college coaches. Currently, Rich has received written offers from Purdue, Connecticut, Toledo, Syracuse, West Virginia, and 1-AA power Hofstra. Schools like Boston College, Virginia Tech, Duke, and Penn State have shown him a great deal of interest and have been hinting of scholarship offers.
A tackle and defensive end in high school, Rich will probably be changing positions when he reaches college. What positions are schools looking at him for?
"On both sides of the ball. They're looking to move me inside because of my height. Either center or guard on offense and defensive tackle or a nose guard of sorts," explained Rich.
Rich just recently spent a weekend at Penn State. What brought Rich down to State College?
"I went for the camp. I went down for two days, worked with the d-line coach and o-line coach, and came home," Rich said. "It was two weekends ago. I stayed up for two days on a weekend--one day was with the defensive line coach, Coach Johnson, the other was with Coach Anderson, the centers and guards coach. I got a tour of the campus with Coach Norwood. It's a beautiful campus, great facilities, it was a good trip, a very good trip."
Was that Rich's first time to Penn State campus?
"It's my second. The first time I really didn't get to see the facilities. I got to work with the offensive line coach and the defensive line coach, but that was going into my junior year," stated Rich, who continued, "I was 6'2'' and 220 pounds, so nobody was looking at me then. I'm currently 6'3'', 275 pounds."
With his 6'3'', 275 pound frame, Rich runs a consistent 4.9 forty time and maxes out at 325 pounds on the bench press. In the days prior to Penn State camp, Rich spent time at Maryland for an unofficial visit. He has also seen Hofstra and Syracuse, two schools closer to his New York home. Does he have plans to travel to anymore college destinations in the near future?
"This summer I'm actually planning a trip to see West Virginia, Virginia Tech, and Duke all in one shot. And then Boston College definitely this summer. And then finish up the first week of August with a couple more [visits] closer in the northeast area," said Rich.
Are the Eagles almost ready to pull the trigger on a scholarship offer?
"Yeah, I've been speaking with Coach McGovern, my recruiting coach, and the way he said it is if he and the other coaches can get a look at me, I'll probably leave with a scholarship."
Penn State may be another school on the verge of offering Rich a scholarship after he impressed all of the assistant coaches who had the chance to work with him at the camp.
"Coach Norwood, my recruiting coach, is the coach I spoke to about the reactions from the coaches that I worked with. Coach [Larry] Johnson requested to see me for another day because I don't think he understood the time restraints [on me] but he wanted to have me for another day," explained Rich, who could only stay in Happy Valley for two days because his head coach and ride home had a prior engagement.
"He actually said that he likes to go against the guys he's looking to scholarship because he wants to feel exactly how much force they've got behind them," laughed Rich, who said that Norwood told him LJ, Sr.'s motto is 'push me a couple of yards or knock me on my back, I want to see what you're packing.'
Rich also received word that he impressed veteran offensive line coach, Dick Anderson, with his workout.
"Coach Norwood said that five minutes after I finished working with him, walking back to the coaching facilities, he (Anderson) said, 'I don't need to see him anymore; I saw as much as I need' and 'I saw all I needed and I'm really excited about this one,'" stated Rich. "Coach Norwood added on a phone later when we got home that I reminded Coach Anderson of a professional football player who played in the league for ten years that he coached down at Penn State."
What indications has the coaching staff given him that make it seem like they could offer soon?
"Coach Norwood was talking like they were going to offer. He said you're right in the mix but we want to give other guys a fair shot. He said there is going to be a two week break after you come home from camp, that's when all the coaches go on their vacations, but once we come back, we're right on top of the recruiting," said Rich. "He said if I had stayed the extra days, I would have been able to meet Coach Paterno. He also added that it's not a big problem at all because Coach Paterno takes a lot of stock in his coaches' words and that you'll get plenty of accolades from the coaches you worked with."
What position does the coaching staff see Rich playing if he becomes a Nittany Lion?
"On offense, probably guard or center. Defensively, I'd assume moving me inside to a tackle or nose guard, but I didn't get to work with Coach Johnson as much as we hoped."
Although he admitted that he's not ready to make a decision yet, Rich definitely has two schools that really jump out in his mind.
"Right now, my early favorites are definitely Penn State and Syracuse. Those are the two that have impressed me the most," said Rich. "I like Syracuse's coaching staff, they were very warm. Penn State showed the exact same qualities. Syracuse, of course their facilities are excellent. The Carrier Dome was very exciting to walk into. Penn State is right up there with Beaver Stadium. So those are the front runners."
If the Nittany Lions offer, Penn State could be looking at another verbal to its list of stolen gems from the Empire State.
(Interview by Steve Curry)