They stream out of the Beaver Stadium tunnel nearly an hour before kickoff. Some wear gear from their school, others sport freshly purchased Penn State clothing, and others wear shirts with no affiliations at all.
Some are studs, on the Nittany Lions' recruiting radar from the beginning. Others are potential walk-ons, soaking in the possible opportunity that may one day await them. It's often the third grouping that is most intriguing, because they are the ones who left their sweat on the fields outside Holuba Hall at a Penn State summer camp to earn the staff's eye and an invitation to a game. Ryan Buchholz did just that.
Wearing a Great Valley jacket that looked more purple than Patriots' blue thanks to heavy rains that rarely let up before Penn State took on Kent State, he kept a careful eye on the warm-ups defensive line coach Larry Johnson was putting his rush men through. A gray Penn State sweatshirt could be seen underneath, an ode to his interest in the Lions.
The Class of 2015 defensive end from Great Valley High (Malvern, Pa.) had already been to University Park twice after camping a pair of times during summer, but this time was different. It was his hard work that led him there.
"I've been in contact with Coach Johnson a lot, and it was exciting that I finally got to go to a game," Buchholz said. "I still had chills and was so excited when I walked out of that tunnel. It was so awesome."
Great Valley has exploded out of the gate in the Chest-Mont League, scurrying to a 4-1 record on the back of a defense that has surrendered just 12 points per game. Buchholz (pronounced Butch-holz) has had plenty to do with it, making an estimated 20-to-30 stops along with five sacks.
The youngest of three brothers, the defensive end has a wealth of recruiting knowledge at his fingertips as he embarks on his own process. One brother, Erik, is a redshirt junior offensive tackle at James Madison, while his other brother, Carl, is a senior running back and wrestler at Maryland.
If there is one downside to having two brothers playing high-level football, it's that his parents often have to decide which one of their two boys they will go see, let alone try to squeeze in a college visit for the youngest. It meant, at least on this trip, family friends had to accompany Ryan Buchholz to PSU.
They were happy to help, seeing that they have a daughter currently attending Penn State.
"We picked her up and went to the recruiting lounge," Ryan Buchholz said. "I met with Coach (Ron) Vanderlinden many times, but I got to talk with Coach Johnson this time, too.
"I think he's a great coach. He coached many good players, and I loved what I learned from him."
Current Penn State walk-on receiver Chris Geiss is an alum of Great Valley, and Buchholz said he had a chance to say hi to his former teammate. When asked what it means to see a fellow Patriot from a town with a population just over 3,000 playing Division I football, he admitted it has the small town excited. After all, few Great Valley players have dotted FBS rosters.
"I like defensive end better. I usually have a lot of one-on-one and get by easily," Ryan Buchholz said. Wisconsin, Nebraska, Northwestern, Maryland, Pittsburgh and Temple are all beginning to show interest, too.
"I like Penn State, and obviously the football team stands out," he said. "I know a lot of people that have gone there and love it."