When Patrice Rene was looking for a high school in America, he and his family focused on coaches, academics and football.
His college decision-making process will follow a similar path.
The Petersborough, Ont., St. Peter’s School three-star junior will make the jump from Canadian football to American football this fall at Episcopal High in Alexandria, Va. It’s a journey he knows well from watching current Penn State quarterback Michael O’Connor and running back Akeel Lynch do it, and he hopes to follow the same path they did to an FBS college.
“I’m just really excited and eager,” Rene said. “I’m really looking forward to get that whole process started. My dream was to be able to play college football down in the states, so I think that’s going to take my one step closer.”
Closer is relative, as the corner already has the opportunity he desires to play at the next level from the eight college programs that have already verbally offered. One of them is Penn State, which Rene visited Sunday for a football camp.
“It was great,” Rene said. “I just remember the last time I went [in the spring], the facilities were great and they showed a lot of love.
“[Corners] Coach [Terry] Smith, he showed a lot of love. I really loved the chance I had to work with them and he taught me a lot of new things.”
Rene is no stranger to University Park, having visited previously when Bill O’Brien was in charge. The corner cited a more laid back approach from new head coach James Franklin’s staff to O’Brien’s, and also noted Franklin’s ode to creativity.
One point in particular the junior noted was the fact offensive coordinator John Donovan called Wildcat plays during the spring Blue-White Game, which Rene watched on TV. That was something never seen under O’Brien.
“He didn’t really like that stuff,” Rene said of O’Brien. “Coach Franklin loves that type of stuff, and different things, and he brings a lot of hype. The recruiting [class] right now is just crazy, and he can bring Penn State football to the next level.”
O’Connor trained at the same facility as Rene does in Canada, and he added that he believes Penn State stands out in part because of what he has heard from the former IMG Academy quarterback.
“The relationship I have with Michael is really close, and he’s been telling me a lot of great things about the school.”
“The relationship I have with Michael is really close, and he’s been telling me a lot of great things about the school,” Rene said. “Seeing it firsthand, and seeing Coach Franklin and the way he relates to the school … it’s not too far from home and also one of the top schools I have.
“Penn State is right up there with everybody. It’s a great school and I like it a lot. They have academics and the whole package.”
Ohio State is standing out as well, and the corner said that while his traveling Gridiron Academy group would like to make it to Columbus for the Buckeyes’ “Friday Night Lights” camp, he believes travel issues may get in the way.
That won’t stop him from visiting Columbus in the future. State College is a likely stopping point as well this fall, Rene said. Other will get a look mostly because of the proximity to Alexandria.
“As of right now, I’m hoping that I’m about to get to a couple schools,” Rene said. “We talked about Penn State and Ohio State games, and I just want to take a lot of visits, especially to Virginia Tech and Virginia since they are close by.”