|School:||Dixie State College of Utah, St. George, UT|
Danny Southwick traveled a long road before arriving at Penn State for a visit this weekend. After graduating from high school in 2000, Danny elected to complete a two year mission for the Church of Latter Day Saints rather than enrolling at Brigham Young, where he had signed a letter-of-intent. After completing his mission, Danny signed a letter of intent with Oregon State, enrolling there for the 2003 spring quarter and participating in spring drills for the Beavers. After head coach Dennis Erickson left for the NFL, Southwick decided to go the junior college route and transferred in the summer of 2003 to junior college power Dixie State, which entered the 2003 season with a 10 game winning streak.
Despite not having played in a competitive football game since 1999, Danny played well enough this season to share quarterback duties with the incumbent starter in a season that ended with a loss in the NJCAA national championship game. Southwick threw for over 1000 yards and 11 touchdowns on 124 pass attempts.
LionNews talked to Danny, who is the stepson of national TV talk show host Larry King, on Sunday night after to see how the visit went and learn more about his plans. Southwick had originally planned to travel to Penn State with Travis Brown, but made the trip by himself when Brown decided that Penn State was not in his future. Isaac Smolko was Southwick's host.
Danny was enthusiastic about the trip. He said, "It was an absolutely great trip. I was older than the players that hosted me, that's kind of funny. I'm 22 (he'll be 23 before the end of the 2004 season). I guess I'd be one of the older guys on the team if I signed." How would he rate the visit? "He jokingly replied, "Oh, like a 9.2468. It was really good. I liked it a lot. More than my first trip [to PSU]. My first trip, I went out there and I was wet behind the ears, just out of high school, didn't know much about the world. Now I'm 22. I still don't know a whole lot about the world, but at least I've been on my own for two years with my mission. I felt like I was more equal to the players, rather than a young kid who had never left his family's house."
We asked him about the likelihood that he would commit to Penn State.
"I pretty much want to commit to Penn State. The only thing is that we're going over my academics to make sure that I'll be able to. Coach (Joe) Paterno sat me down this morning (Sunday) and said we need to make sure your academics are straight. Before I sign or anything like that happens they need to make sure I actually can be here."
Danny elaborated further, "My grade situation is kind of complicated because I left so early from Oregon State. In order to leave a four year and go to a two year and then back to four year, you have to have two years of schooling done. I'll only be at school for about a year. So right now I'm taking 22 credits and over the summer I'll be taking some credits. I'm just working my butt off because I loved Penn State. I was just highly enthusiastic about all the things they have there. The stadium is 106,000. They've been on TV 104 out of the last 105 games or something like that. I like the exposure. I like the players. I like the people out there. I like the fact that the campus is its own little town, kind of. There was nothing about Penn State I didn't like. It's just a question of can I get there and what would be the best thing for me right now."
Danny continued, "Jay said he's going to try to get out to Utah this week. He's going to meet with me and I think my counselor." Did they try to get Southwick to make a decision? "They left it until they could figure things out with my grades. I think I'm going to know more in the next week since Jay is coming out. They tried to bring in a transfer kid before and he was two days away from transferring and they found he didn't have enough math. They don't want anything in stone until (the academics are resolved). Even if they would have (pushed the commitment), I would have been like let's give it a week or so. This trip solidified the idea in my head that Penn State football is something I want to do as opposed to they're after me and I'm considering it. I really want to play Penn State football, whether it be after another year of junior college or whether it be whenever. I think it's a great program. There's no way you can keep something like that down."
Southwick even offered up alternatives to Jay Paterno in case the grade situation didn't get resolved favorably.
"I even mentioned to Jay, what if I stayed at JC one more year. If you're bringing me in it's probably going to be a redshirt this year anyways. I would have to start like a week later because I left Oregon State a week into fall camp. I said maybe it would be best to stay at Dixie this year. I was like, would you guys still be interested? He said that's a possibility. But we thought about it and the negative of that is if I didn't go, the longer you're away from Penn State the more you miss. There could be injuries this year. Or next year after Mills is gone, instead of being able to be a backup or compete I would have to redshirt then if I didn't beat out Robinson. I lose a playing year of eligibility. It might not be the best thing.
"Nothing would be greater than being the quarterback for a couple of years for a university like Penn State. It's a ways away from home and I don't think anyone likes to leave home. I've been away for a long time. When it comes down to it, my decision is a business decision. What keeps going through my head is, I don't think I can pass something like this up. It's too good of a situation. I think they feel like if I came I'd have a pretty good chance of playing because they don't really mention the guys behind me or the guys I'm competing with, they mention the guys who are in front of me."
He continued, "They're going to give Winovich and Lyons a shot at quarterback. They were like, we'll give you (Lyons) a shot at quarterback but we feel like you're probably going to be a tight end, another kid (Winovich) you're probably going to be a linebacker." Laughing, he added, "With me, Coach (Joe) Paterno was like if you weren't playing quarterback you'd probably be a team manager. It's probably going to be between me and one other kid they're bringing in."
Southwick told us that the statement Joe made about Jordan Lyons probably playing tight end was made in Jordan's presence.
"He (Joe) was like, I'm just going to be honest. That's one thing I respect about Coach Paterno. He's a really honest guy. I haven't always had that from a lot of recruiters. I didn't know that Lyons was even a tight end. Lyons looks like he'd be a pretty good quarterback. I think he (Joe) might have even said tight end or receiver. I think Lyons is pretty intent on trying out for quarterback and I'm sure they'll give him a shot. The other guy (Winovich) when I asked Joe, he said he's probably a linebacker. Winovich is like a moose. I bet he can lay the hat."
He added, "I was around Jordan probably most of any other recruit. His dad was actually real nice to me and so was Jordan. We both flew into Cincinnati. His dad invited me up into the Crown room (Delta's travelers club) and stuff, so I was just kind of hanging out with them. They're really nice guys."
Are any other visits planned?
"This is my only (official visit). I'm always on the phone with random, different coaches from place you wouldn't expect. All things considered, Penn State has been the one that's been through and through the whole way. It's the one I've been interested in them if they're interested in me. I would really like to get there. It's just a question of grades and stuff. I've talked to a bunch of schools about it and there are some possibilities. I don't want to waste a school's time. Unless I feel like it's a situation that could potentially be better for me than Penn State I'm not going to visit. Visits are almost more like work than a vacation. I'm not trying to go visit some school I don't want to look at."
Danny continued, "Right now it's looking mostly like either I'm going to go to Penn State if the academics work out and I'll be there in the fall or I'm going to stay another year and work on my options. A lot of things fell through the cracks this year. Good schools I would have been very interested in because of not being able to leave in the spring. I'll be that much better next year and have more options. Again, what's going through my head the whole way, though, is I don't want to pass up this (the Penn State) opportunity. "