WR Vadas Catches On as Run-On

The Ohio small-school standout passed on a scholarship offer from Marshall to follow his dream of becoming a Nittany Lion.

Luke Vadas made a name for himself in a small Ohio town. The 6-foot-2, 185-pound wide-receiver hauled in 79 passes for 1,045 yards and nine touchdowns for the OHSAA Division III University School in Chagrin Falls, last season, and was named to the Ohio Division III third team as well as the News-Herald first team.

But his family has Pennsylvania roots to another small town. They are native of the Derry/Latrobe area. So maybe it's only fitting that the senior will continue his football dreams in another small town. Vadas committed to run-on at Penn State last week, a decision that is leading him to the field he visited often in the past.

“My dad actually grew up in the Latrobe/Derry area, and though he graduated from Pittsburgh, he remained a Penn State fan even when he left the state,” Vadas said. “Ever since Day One, I went to Penn State games. I went to my first game when I was 5, and was there when they beat Ohio State in 2005. I remember when I was in seventh grade, I looked at my dad and told him this is where I want to play.”

Vadas attended January's run-on day event, which came a few months after Nittany Lion wide receiver coach Stan Hixon started showing interest in the Buckeye State prospect. That visit ultimately was a big component in his decision to turn down a scholarship offer from Marshall, and a similar walk-on opportunity at Ohio State, to become a Nittany Lion.

“Coach Hixon took the time to spend an hour with me, and to tell me why Penn State was good for me,” Vadas said. “He was quite frank. He said, 'If you can get up and catch the ball, you'll always have a spot on the field at Penn State.' That was huge for me, because I knew I kind of had a fair chance there, and Coach Hixon is like a father figure. I'm really looking forward to getting to know him better.”

Playing in the smallest Ohio football classification did Vadas no favors on the recruiting trail, though Maryland, Duke, Boston College, Tennessee and Pittsburgh also showed interest in him. When it came to Marshall's offer, though, the senior said he just couldn't see himself spending four or five years on the Huntingdon, W.Va. campus, even though he had the utmost respect for the staff there. He can see himself at University Park, though, and believes his skill set can mesh well with what Bill O'Brien and company are looking for offensively.

“I've always kind of been taught to catch the ball with your hands. You can't play if you can't make catches and make something happen afterward,” Vadas said. “That's the biggest thing for me. The second is route running. I like to watch guys like [former Pittsburgh Steelers wide-receiver] Hines Ward and [current Baltimore Ravens wide-out] Anquan Boldin. They might not be the fastest guys, but they always find ways to get open, run great routes, and I aspire to be that third-down guy that, on third-and-five, and run a five-yard slant, break man coverage, and get open. I really take pride in that.”

With visits already in the bag as a fan, he checked out State College for last fall's season finale as a recruit, a game where Penn State took down Wisconsin 24-21 to end its campaign.

“Being on the field, the electricity was awesome. It was the crowd being into the game, and the players,” Vadas said. “It was a close game, and just from a team standpoint, just the way everything happened with Sandusky, they mustered up and rallied back, and stood together. Guys like [Michael] Mauti and [Michael] Zordich, who took pride in the team and in themselves, it just clicked to me that it was a brotherhood. I always heard growing up that football is a brotherhood, and I wanted more of that.

“Of all the schools I visited, Penn State was really the one I could walk away from and say it was a brotherhood, and they stuck together.”

June 23 is the day Vadas will reach University Park for its second summer semester, ready to take on his role as a run-on and whatever it might entail.

“For me, my parents taught me to never be given anything, and I don't want to be given anything. As a walk-on player, I feel it's a great opportunity to learn everything that I will eventually end up getting,” Vadas said. “I like that a lot, that I have to earn every second and minute I'm on the field. I could be on scout team, could be a second-team guy, could be a guy that runs plays, or could be a starter. Coach O'Brien said it best talking to all of us. He said, 'There's one of you that will run down on the opening kick-off for [the 2013 opener vs.] Syracuse.' That motivated me to be that one guy to get on the field as a freshman, and if that doesn't happen, it will motivate me to work hard and earn it.”

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