When Chris Green returned home after Central Catholic (Toledo, Ohio) earned its fifth victory of the season, a letter awaited him.
It wasn't an unfamiliar occurrence for the 6-foot-1, 222-pound Class of 2015 inside linebacker. Letters have been flowing in, especially after college coaches could increase contact with current juniors when the calendar turned to September. This letter, however, was especially intriguing.
It came from Stan Hixon, the receivers coach at Penn State, informing him that recent news from the NCAA had given Penn State more scholarships for the 2014 season and beyond, which includes the Class of 2015. It also asked him to call Hixon when he could.
Before he typed Hixon's number into his phone, Green wondered if an offer might be waiting for him. It didn't take long to find out that one indeed was from Penn State, his fifth in a recruitment that is slowly gaining steam.
"He told me he wanted to give me a full scholarship, and told me about the scholarship reductions and tradition they have with middle linebackers in the NFL," Green said. "They have 12, and 11 of the 12 got their degree.
"You don't know of many college football players that finish their degrees, so that meant a lot to me."
Green later added that until Hixon told him, he had no idea that Penn State was under NCAA sanctions, but the fact didn't faze him. After all, he said, if he would come to Penn State and have an undefeated season, "it would still be a good year, even if there wasn't a bowl."
Central Catholic is in the midst of a good season of its own, aided by a green defensive unit that is turning opponents red.
Nine new starters graced the turf when the program opened its 2013 season, but the unit, led by Green, has surrendered just over 11 points per game. Surprising critics isn't all this defense has allowed Green to accomplish after five games. It's allowed him to mold into a leader, too.
The junior was an understudy on a veteran-laden defense last fall, but this year, he says has transformed into on-field vocal leader. He noted he tries to encourage his teammates and direct them when possible.
He directs plenty of his own play, too, tabbing a sack that dropped Ross (Fremont, Ohio) High's quarterback for a seven-yard loss Saturday in 35-7 win as the standout play of his season to date.
"To be a leader, I have to have the least mistakes or no mistakes at all, and have to contain my area as the middle linebacker," Green said. "My goal isn't always to get the most tackles, but to fill gaps and bump into a spot so the outside linebacker or blitzing free safety can make a play.
"Sometimes I make a big play, but other times I help cause a big play for my teammates, and I like that."
Penn State's Oct. 12 clash with Michigan promises to be the biggest recruiting weekend of the season for the Lions, and Green says he plans to be at University Park on an unofficial visit. It will mark his first trip to see the Lions' facilities after first seeing Penn State coaches around the Central Catholic campus last spring.
Hixon has been his main contact, and he already has a good feel for the receivers coach. It's one of the many reasons he's considering the Lions early, along with Bowling Green, Kentucky, Toledo, and Western Michigan, who have also offered.
"If I was to go there and not be able to go a bowl, of course it would suck, but it's not stopping me from getting to the NFL and not stopping me from leading the team," Green said. "Coach Hixon is a straightforward guy. He tells me what he needs to tell me, and says I may play as a true freshman.
"That was nice to hear, and I know the great linebacker tradition. That's why they call it ‘Linebacker U,' right?"
A trip to East Lansing to see Michigan State take on Michigan is likely, as are trips to Bowling Green and Toledo since both are close to home. He's also considering a visit to Michigan, but it's not set in stone yet.
Ideally, Green says he would like to visit every program that has extended an invitation to a game. Yet, he knows it's not likely considering the fact that he has yet to hit the road. He added that any program he can't see during the fall may get a visit in the winter.
"I'm very excited to get the recruiting process started," he said. "Coach Hixon always asks what I want to major in, but since I'm only a junior I don't have any big thoughts on it. Luckily, I'm a smart enough guy that I'm not afraid to share my transcripts."