Once the Lions offered after a sweltering summer day at University Park last June, heavy hitters such as Alabama and Ohio State followed suit, and the junior offensive tackle from Gonzaga College High (Washington, D.C.) now counts 18 verbal offers on his ledger. But Penn State's was the first. He visited the Lions last weekend.
"I would say it really felt like home. It's not that far away from Maryland, and it really does feel like home for me and my whole family," Petitbon said. "I loved my visit a lot. Penn State is going to be a school in my top three come decision time.
"It's like a family. That Penn State senior class, having to go through everything that happened and they still stayed, it shows what Penn State means to everyone. There's definitely a family mentality there."
The tackle's family feeling came at a particularly good time for the program, as it marked the first time his mother was able to make it on a trip to Happy Valley. On his previous two stops — once last year for the season finale with Wisconsin and once in the summer — only Petitbon and his father had made it. This time, he was accompanied by both parents, plus younger brothers Luke and Carson, and a family friend.
Starting Friday, the family was courted by plenty of the Lions' staff, including main recruiter Larry Johnson, offensive line coach Mac McWhorter and head coach Bill O'Brien himself. Friday's itinerary was dotted more with academic and campus tour items, with football elements mixed in. But the majority of gridiron chatter on this unofficial visit was saved for Saturday, when the family watched Penn State fall 23-20 to Nebraska on Senior Day.
"My mom is going to have a final say in wherever I go. Wherever she feels comfortable is where I'm going to go," Petitbon said with a chuckle. "We kept telling her how much we loved it, and when she got there, she really liked it a lot.
"Coach O'Brien really made her feel at home. It was a really great day. My mom liked the whole family involvement; she liked it a lot. It was very important to have her here, because you can't explain everything. Everybody really enjoyed the trip, and getting to see everything this time around."
Time spent with the assistants and exploring State College were memorable, too.
"I really got to learn a lot over lunch with Coach Mac," Petitbon said. "[We] really liked him a lot, and we also learned how much family means to Coach Johnson. He has the defensive linemen over and stuff, and stuff like that really hit home.
"When I talked to Coach O'Brien, we talked about not just football, but life. He seemed like a really personable guy, and I just really liked the visit a lot with seeing the town, and people tailgating, and the academic buildings and dorms. I saw a lot of great places."
Gonzaga was eliminated from the playoffs early on, meaning the junior would theoretically have additional time to take visits. But none are planned at the moment, mostly thanks to a grueling basketball schedule.