Beaver Stadium certainly has a historic football tradition. So, too, does Penn State's Lasch Building and Holuba Hall. When Baldwin High (Pittsburgh, Pa.) Class of 2015 offensive tackle Sterling Jenkins saw them, he was impressed. Few recruits leave the home of the Nittany Lions without positive reviews of the program's football facilities.
What impressed him most about his unofficial visit to State June 26, though, was what he learned about Penn State and its staff off the field. He was shown, but not immersed, in football as he was on so many other trips. Instead, he described it as a normal college visit.
Thank O-line coach Mac McWhorter for that. One of the recruiting contacts for Jenkins, the soon-to-be second-year assistant sat down with the family to chat not so much about football, but the recruiting process as a whole, too. Admittedly unsure of some of the rules and regulations regarding the recruiting process before the trip, Jenkins noted that McWhorter answered any and all questions he had, something he said he didn't expect to happen, but certainly appreciated.
Now packed with information about when he can call coaches, when they can call him, when he can visit, and when they can evaluate him, he's also familiar with Penn State in a deeper way, too.
"It was definitely cool. I mean, you go there for a visit, and it was more about college than football," Jenkins said. "It was really interesting to see that, and talk to the student support system and see how they run things.
"I talked to an English professor, because I like to write and read. To see the professors' insight when it came to all of that, it was pretty cool."
Make no mistake, though, plenty of football was talked about. When Jenkins wasn't chatting up current State left tackle Donovan Smith, he was trying on a uniform in the Lions' locker room or walking across the barren yet still impressive Beaver Stadium turf.
And that is where an important parallel was drawn for the junior-to-be: as green as the grass was, Jenkins said he found that McWhorter was as genuine as a person and coach, too.
"I never really talked to him as much. I talked mostly to Coach [Charles] London, so that was really cool, and important," Jenkins explained. "I got along with him, and knew he was a nice, and cool, guy. I went home and looked up his resume, and he's been at some pretty good places. He's definitely a guy I could see myself working under."
He didn't speak just with McWhorter, though. Head coach Bill O'Brien also sat and talked with Jenkins and his family for a brief period of time, marking the first encounter he's had with the Lion leader.
London was the first coach to contact the 6-foot-8, 305-pound prospect, and he received a verbal scholarship offer from the program in May. Since then, his offer count has raised to eight, and trips to Michigan and West Virginia still dot his summer schedule.
He already visited Ohio State and Pitt since the school year ended, and offered positive reviews regarding both programs.
"I never went into the Cathedral of Learning before. Of all my years going there, I've never been inside," Jenkins said of Pitt. "I never thought of Pittsburgh as a football team that I could potentially play for, but just a college. The campus is interesting, and I liked what I saw.
"[Ohio State] seems like they have a really well put together football program, and student support system," he continued. "I like the campus, and it's a school I will really think about."
Liking what he sees is a common theme for Jenkins early on in his recruiting process, and he knows with plenty of time before a decision is needed, he can continue to take in the sights and sounds of each school without feeling pressured.
Speaking of pressure, he never felt it when talking to O'Brien. "Laid back," is how he described the Lion leader. He went onto add that O'Brien gave him good vibes, and was someone he enjoyed talking to.
He expects to keep talking to State's staff, and maybe return for a home game this fall. That will be decided once the summer concludes, though. Until then, his focus will soon turn to the upcoming football season. His second year focusing on strictly varsity football, Jenkins explained that he has bettered himself as an all-around player, and has found a new, greater level of confidence heading into his junior season.
That confidence carries over to how he feels about the Lions, as well.
"I just talked to guys for a lot of time, both players and the tour guides," he said about the visit. "It seems like a big family there.
"When you walk out into the stadium, it just adds to the mass of things. When it comes to deciding, all of that stuff I mentioned will be really important."