A 1986 Penn State graduate, Carla Neal-Haley didn't force her son to follow in her footsteps. It was always his decision when it came to picking a college. That said, she's happy he has opted to continue a family tradition by becoming a Nittany Lion.
Neal-Haley's son, Grant, is three-star defensive back recruit out of Atlanta. Monday, he became the fifth Vanderbilt commitment to flip to Penn State since head coach James Franklin left the Commodores to take over the Nittany Lions.
Like his mom in the late 1980s, Grant Haley fell in love with the school, too. He took an unofficial visit to Happy Valley last weekend.
"It's kind of getting close to signing day and I really only had two schools on my mind — Penn State and Vanderbilt," Grant Haley said. "I've always pictured myself playing football in a college town, and that's what Penn State and State College is."
Haley joined a familiar face at University Park over the weekend, as Ashburn (Va.) Briar Woods quarterback Trace McSorley also visited and committed to Franklin and his staff. Both are expected back in State College this coming weekend for official visits.
The Atlanta Lovett School corner was attracted to the program not just by Franklin and defensive coordinator Bob Shoop, but also by Penn State's academics — and the fact it has a communication program that allows him to major in broadcasting. Also, 107,000-seat Beaver Stadium was a factor, too.
Standing 5-foot-10, 180 pounds, the ball hawk doubled as a running back for the Georgia AA state champ Lions. But at Penn State, he'll play corner and return kicks. In 2012, he returned three kicks for touchdowns. Last fall, he housed a punt on one of the rare occasions an opponent kicked to him.
"It's kind of almost exactly the same situation that I had at Vanderbilt," Haley said of how he will fit into the Lions' plans. "I get the opportunity to play kick and punt returner, and they said I could possibly be the fourth corner already. I just have to come in and compete.
"Coach Franklin and Coach Shoop are both driven by their intensity and drive, and they both bring good excitement."
Haley believes his ball skills are a major reason for his success not just as a returner, but as a corner, too.
"I played tailback for my high school team two of three years, and I just have a good feel for what to with the ball in my hands," he said. "At corner, I think my ability to compete for the ball and get at least one of my hands on it is good and a big part of my game.
"I can catch them — get up in the air and get interceptions — and I guess another things is I don't really get beat deep. I'd rather give up an underneath pass than get beat deep."
The three-star prospect confirmed he will not take a scheduled trip to Vanderbilt this weekend or reschedule it for next weekend, effectively ending his recruitment two weeks and change before signing day.