It was a tale Baldwin High (Pittsburgh, Pa.) Class of 2015 offensive tackle Sterling Jenkins was told before he and his family left for University Park, but didn't believe until they arrived shortly after 4 p.m. Saturday ahead of the Nittany Lions' clash with Michigan.
After parking, it was indeed a long walk to the recruiting lounge entrance, about 45 minutes he estimated. But on the way, he was able to take in the scenery surrounding 108,000-seat Beaver Stadium. He noticed the lots packed with Penn State fans. No one was there just to tailgate. They were there for a big-time football game.
That was something he'd discover later, during the four-hour-and-change affair that Penn State won, 43-40, over the then-No. 18 Wolverines.
"I got to the field and in my seat literally when the game started, but on the way in, it was pretty cool to see all the support behind Penn State," Jenkins said. "I thought it was pretty cool to see the set-up walking up there. They were there, whether they had Michigan or Penn State clothes on, to support their team.
"It was definitely the loudest game I've ever been to. It was only my second visit, but it pretty much set the bar for other places and how loud they can get."
Jenkins missed the usual pre-game opportunity to chat with State's coaching staff, but after the win, they made time for him. He and his family chatted with Lions' strength coach Craig Fitzgerald, running backs coach Charles London, offensive line coach Mac McWhorter and head coach Bill O'Brien after post-game festivities ended.
Before that, he kept a close eye on Lions' offensive tackle Donovan Smith, and with good reason. Smith's left tackle spot is one McWhorter said he could envision Jenkins filling one day, even if the junior plays on the right side in high school.
A transition to the blind-side spot, Jenkins explained, would not be a concern. In fact, it's a challenge, and change, that intrigues him.
"I watched how he worked and was doing stuff, and it was kind of like I do now," Jenkins said. "Obviously, he was at a higher level and stuff, but I didn't feel like, if I went to Penn State, it would be too hard to get used to.
"For example, his two-point stance looked similar to my two-point stance. I watched him a lot."
He also kept an eye on Michigan tackle Taylor Lewan before he left the game with an injury, as the Wolverines' are hot on the trail of the prospect, too. He'll visit Columbus Oct. 26 to see Ohio State host Penn State for an 8 p.m. kick, before seeing both the Wolverines and Buckeyes again Nov. 30 when he visits Ann Arbor.
Saturday was about Penn State, though, and its coaches made sure to express exactly how they'd see him fitting into their scheme and program.
"They were telling me that now I know what Penn State has to offer and how I fit what they have in their scheme," Jenkins said. "Coach Fitz was talking to me about their points at Penn State, and why I'd like to go there.
"I really like Coach Fitz, and Coach Mac is pretty cool, too. And the atmosphere was awesome. When a call went against Penn State, they booed. When it went for Penn State, they cheered. All the fans were really into the game and supporting their team, and it was really cool."
It wasn't planned intentionally, but it's not a bad thing that Jenkins will get to see three of the programs recruiting him — Penn State, Michigan, and Ohio State — both at home and on the road this fall. It falls in line with his belief that he has what it takes, both mentally and physically, to be a Big Ten linemen.
He added it's "pretty cool" to watch Big Ten lines do their work, but the conference doesn't make up his entire recruiting interest. Along with the trio mentioned, Jenkins said Florida State, Ole Miss, Tennessee and Pittsburgh are the programs standing out early of the 10 that have offered to date. He has no visits planned other than the ones previously mentioned.
And his trip to PSU left a lasting impression.
"The one moment that stood out to me the most was whenever [receiver Allen] Robinson nearly got the touchdown. I think it was on ESPN's top plays," Jenkins said. "It was pretty cool; he hopped up and got it, and the crowd just went crazy, and the sideline was so happy.
"People were screaming and stuff, and the energy there and support there was really something I haven't seen before."