This year is first major-college football players are allowed to work summer camps at the university they attend. Nobody is happier about the NCAA’s sudden shift on that front than Billy Kisner.
The Pittsburgh Penn Hills junior athlete had just received his camp uniform — No. 7 — and had begun to stretch inside Holuba Hall back in June when a Nittany Lion receiver came his way. Kisner didn’t know it at the time, but Geno Lewis, who also wears No. 7, picked him out right away.
“He felt like there was something in me that was good,” Kisner recalled. “It was just nice. I did a little background check on Eugene, and he played quarterback in high school, too.”
Kisner will handle quarterbacking among other duties (he's being recruited as a corner) for Penn Hills this year, as well, so the two bonded right away. When Kisner arrived at University Park Monday for the Lions’ first day of camp, they reconnected in a hurry.
The pair talked as Lewis readied to hit the practice field, and then the Penn State sophomore receiver showed him around the Lasch Building. It may have been the highlight of the day, had a visit to Beaver Stadium with Penn State head coach James Franklin not preceded it before a couple hours watching practice followed.
“I definitely really loved the atmosphere overall,” Kisner said. “I liked how everything went and how practice was run, and how excited the guys were for the first day of practice.”
Penn State has clawed its way back into being a presence in the WPIAL with Franklin and his staff in town. It’s evident by the Lions’ success there — they grabbed a signee in 2014, and verbal commitments in the Classes of 2015 and 2016 — and also their ability to get prospects from that part of the state on campus.
Two other western Pennsylvania prospects — Clairton sophomore Lamont Wade and junior Aaron Mathews — joined Kisner on campus Monday. Kisner could not speak for the others, but said he enjoyed what he saw.
“I got to see how the campus was and see where the players would actually stay getting ready to go to camp. I got to see the stadium, be on the field, and go in the locker room and see what the jerseys look like.”
“I got to see how the campus was and see where the players would actually stay getting ready to go to camp,” Kisner said. “I got to see the stadium, be on the field, and go in the locker room and see what the jerseys look like.”
Speaking to the coaches was important, too, Kisner said. Especially because their message has been consistent: he was told after camp, in subsequent conversations, and Monday that the program likes his potential and skills, but wants to see him in pads.
To do so, they requested film of his first two to three games for 2014. After that, Penn State is hoping to get the junior back on campus. Nittany Lion home games with Ohio State and Michigan State are two target visit dates, Kisner said, with a third to be added.
“They definitely did stress to me to come out to one of their games as soon as I get done with my first two games,” Kisner said.
When he does, he’ll have the chance to grow his already strong relationship with Penn State’s staff. That was another thing Kisner said he accomplished Monday.
“I felt like the relationship was a lot better,” Kisner said. “It’s more strong than anything now, because I got to see them and how they are with the players.”
And, as Kisner discovered, what you see is what you get with this Lions’ staff. Just the way he likes it.
“They weren’t afraid to say, ‘You see me yelling, this is what you’re going to get and expect if you come here,’ ” Kisner said. “I don’t want to see them put on a front and then have it be different when you get there.
“It was really nice to see the coaches, and how they interact with the players and see the players get feedback from them.”