The only involvement the Spartans had on PSU’s future, then, was relative to a 2016 passer from New York. Both programs had recruited Jake Zembiec hard, and were considered the co-leaders. But, like the game they played, only one side would win.
Penn State certainly did not win the game, falling 34-10 to the No. 11 Spartans on Senior Day. But the Lions did continue building for the future, as Zembiec, a junior quarterback from Rochester, N.Y., Aquinas, verbally committed to James Franklin before the game.
“It’s just kind of what I’ve been saying all along,” Zembiec said. “If I got the gut feeling to commit, I was going to do it, and I feel really comfortable and 100 percent committed.
“I just felt like yesterday was the day, and I made sure Coach Franklin was the first to know.”
It was some of the best news the program received on an otherwise disappointing Saturday.
Penn State first scouted Zembiec back in the spring, when offensive line coach Herb Hand and quarterbacks coach Ricky Rahne drove to New York to see him throw. The passer returned the favor once, attending the Lions’ summer camp, and eventually made a handful of visits to University Park before committing.
“They really have everything that I need,” Zembiec said. “They go from academics that are outstanding, football facilities that are great, tradition — both the school and the football program are great. It’s close to home.
“My family can get here easily for weekends, which is important to me, and everything is good.”
Zembiec played just two games this fall after suffering a broken left wrist. It ended what was supposed to be his best season yet, even if he was the state player of the year as a sophomore after throwing for 1,932 yards and 26 touchdowns.
“They really have everything that I need. They go from academics that are outstanding, football facilities that are great, tradition — both the school and the football program are great. It’s close to home.”
The passer had his ups and downs this year, too: finally healed, he began preparing to lead his team in the postseason. But before it began, he was ruled ineligible due to not playing in the required number of games to participate in the playoffs.
Of course, Penn State has faced its own adversity and ups and downs this fall. Zembiec said he wasn’t concerned about them, though.
“I’m not really looking down on that or looking at any struggles they are having,” he said. “I’m more optimistic and looking at where it can go and looking at having two or three young receivers to throw to, and a line that is going to be great with a few recruits coming in, and the coaching staff having a few more years together.
“I’m looking forward to the future.”
What does he believe it holds for him at Penn State?
“Their style of offense is, they like to go in shotgun and spread it out, but they stick with the pro style and that’s the best thing you can do for a quarterback to develop him for the next level,” Zembiec said. “They utilize their athletes at all positons and that’s really important because everyone is so talented.”
Zembiec’s smile stretched across his face as he wondered around the Beaver Stadium sidelines with fellow Class of 2016 pledge and defensive end Shane Simmons. The duo stopped every now and again to chat with other visitors, and perhaps nudge some to consider Penn State more or ponder joining them down the road in blue and white.
Those moments won’t be contained to Saturday, Zembiec said. He wants to start forming his legacy immediately.
“I already started yesterday at the game, putting a bug in some of the recruits’ ears that were there,” Zembiec said. “I think that’s a big part of my position, especially as the quarterback; you have to start leading the guys now.”