Catching up With Szczerba

Delaware standout Andrew Szczerba made an unofficial visit to Penn State in early August, and his mother, father and twin sister Juliana came along for the experience. Not long after the trip to Happy Valley, Andrew made up his mind to become a Nittany Lion. But he waited until Sunday to tell the PSU staff. Why?

So he could look Penn State coach Joe Paterno square in the eye and tell him of the decision. The towering tight from Salesianum School and his father, Edward, scheduled a special trip to University Park over the weekend just so Andrew could make his commitment in person.

“I'm a man of my word,” Szczerba said. “When I tell a coach I'm verbally committing, there is no changing that. I wanted to show that.”

Which is exactly what he did. When the Szczerbas discovered Sunday was the first day Penn State would practice in full pads, they knew it would be the perfect time to spring the announcement. So they arranged a visit. Andrew had a meeting with Paterno shortly before the practice session began.

“He had no idea I was going to commit,” Szczerba said. “I told him the reason I wanted to come see practice is because I wanted to be a Nittany Lion. He popped right out of his seat and gave me a handshake.”

“Congratulations and welcome to the family,” the legendary coach replied.

The timing of the commitment was important for Szczerba (pronounced “Zerba”), who wanted to have a decision made before his high school team's preseason drills begin Aug. 15. He had narrowed his choices to Penn State and Virginia from a long list of offers, including more distant locales such as Michigan and Iowa.

“I don't see why you have to go to Michigan or Iowa when there are great schools like Penn State and Virginia right by me,” he said.

The early-August visit to Penn State was the deal-sealer for Szczerba. On it, he spent time with star linebacker Paul Posluszny. He toured the school's facilities and talked to other players and coaches, as well.

“I just fell in love with the campus,” he said. “I felt comfortable there, just the atmosphere. And I have a lot of respect for the coaches and players.”

Szczerba also sees a chance to earn early playing time at tight end. Though he plays tight end and defensive end in high school, he said Penn State is recruiting him for the former because has the size to block and good hands.

“I love to block,” he said. “I love putting my head in there and getting hit. But I also love running routes. I think I'll be perfect for their offense.”

Speaking of size, Szczerba had his high school football physical last week. He measured in at 6-foot-7, 258 pounds, a full inch taller and nearly 20 pounds heavier than he was a year earlier.

He comes by the size honestly. His dad is 6-4 and he has two older brothers who are in the same range. A couple of uncles are 6-3.

“I don't look 258 pounds, that's the thing,” he said. “I have pretty long arms and long legs.”

He hopes to put that size and athletic ability to use leading his team to a second straight state title. Now that his college decision is out of the way, Szczerba should have no trouble zeroing in on the task at hand.

“This summer has been crazy with the recruiting and college business,” he said. “I felt I was focusing on college and looking past my senior year. But now that this is over, I'll be able to focus on my senior year and enjoy every minute of it.”


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