Van Jefferson grew up in Orchard Lake, Mich., while his father Shawn worked his way through the Detroit Lions organization into the position of receivers coach. It was there that the eldest Jefferson met current Penn State head coach Bill O'Brien.
The two got together once in Detroit to exchange intel on divisional opponents. As Van Jefferson recalls, O'Brien's New England Patriots were scheduled to play the Minnesota Vikings and Green Bay Packers, while Detroit would find itself facing off with the New York Jets. The two hit it off right away, Van Jefferson remembered.
All three men are finally starting to become comfortable with their new surroundings, as none are located where they were before that meeting began. O'Brien, of course, has moved on to University Park and Penn State. Shawn Jefferson and his family moved to Nashville, Tenn., when he became receivers coach of the Tennessee Titans earlier this year.
Van Jefferson is a 6-foot-2, 168-pound wide receiver at Brentwood High (Ravenwood, Tenn.). The junior-to-be transferred into the program last winter because none of his other choices would allow him to do so until the end of the school year. But he's quickly becoming comfortable with the new school.
And he is now turning heads on the football field.
The Class of 2015 member picked up his third offer during Penn State's Advanced Skills Camp Saturday, impressing wide receiver coach Stan Hixon — who has his own NFL background — and O'Brien. Middle Tennessee State and Vanderbilt have offered, too.
"They were talking to me when I was in Michigan, and me and my dad decided to come since they wanted me to camp," Jefferson said. "Allen Robinson went to my school [St. Mary's in in Michigan], too, and he was telling me to come, as well. I thought I had a good performance.
"It was a little bit of a surprise," he said of the offer. "I knew that they were looking at me, and stuff like that, but I didn't know they would offer me at the camp. I was pretty excited."
Route running was the strength Jefferson picked out when asked which attribute he displayed best Saturday. Considering his father's background, it hardly comes as a surprise. The receiver added that he did well catching the ball from the stable of quarterbacks on hand, but also that he learned from Hixon about getting off his releases with his hands.
His sister was very interested in Penn State during the college decision process, he said, adding he's always been a big fan of the school's tradition and football program. It doesn't hurt that State offers a top shelf academic program, which is something that will play heavily in his decision, too.
The coaches who will lead him will also play a significant role, and the job Hixon has done with Robinson has not slipped Jefferson's gaze. He noted that "Robinson is one of the best receivers in college football … so I paid attention.
The Nittany Lions stand out to Jefferson for several reasons.
"I liked when Penn State played against Ohio State. Everyone came in all white, and that was a pretty good showing," Van Jefferson explained. "I'm really high on Penn State."
Asked his thoughts on O'Brien, Jefferson said, "He's a great coach, hard-nosed, and gets the best out of his players. I like that in a coach, and would love to play for him. He has a great demeanor and is a great guy. … When I talked to Coach O'Brien, he said he wants me to come to the school and play in his offense, and he wants to coach me for my career.That's a pretty good thing for me, and it hyped me up."
An increase in competition is to be had on the gridiron in Tennessee compared to Michigan, he feels, and that will only help him improve his game. He said his goals for his junior season are to go over 1,000 yards receiving while also doing something special with his quarterback. He likes the direct demeanor of Brentwood head coach Mike Woodward.
Jefferson plans to return to University Park for a game this fall, and will make stops at Arkansas and Tennessee to finish off his summer stops.
"My dad is helping me out, and telling me what schools are going to get you the ball, which schools are very high on you, and telling me which schools are recruiting me," Van Jefferson said. "I have to stay humble. That's what got me where I am, and will keep me where I'm at."