Long Journey Leads to PSU

Frank Figueroa's football career got off to a late start as he traveled around the world. Get the lowdown on what his journey was about and how it will ultimately result in a gridiron career at Penn State.

Frank Figueroa has come a long way in a short time, both literally and figuratively.

The son of a career Army man, he was born in Indianapolis, and subsequently moved to Germany, Panama, Puerto Rico, Virginia (two stops) and Belgium.

The figurative part came on the football field. Though always big for his age, Figueroa never played tackle football until his freshman season at Edison High in Alexandria, Va., shortly after the family had relocated to the area after spending three years in Belgium.

While in Belgium, he and other children of U.S. service personnel played flag football.

“I came over to [to the United States] my freshman year, so I went ahead and played J.V. football,” he explained. “It was a pretty big change. At first, I was like, wow, everyone is going so much harder. But I was able to adjust pretty quickly because I was dedicated enough.

“From there, my coaches told me that with my size, nobody was going to stop me from being able to go to a good school,” he added.

Figueroa took heed, and built himself up from a 6-foot-3, 210-pound freshman to a 6-4, 270-pound junior. His dedication in the weight room and the classroom began to pay off at the end of his sophomore season, when Boston College and Rutgers began to show interest.

Penn State entered the picture at the beginning of his junior season. Figueroa made two visits to Happy Valley earlier this year -- one for a Junior Day, one for a spring practice. Assistant coach Larry Johnson spearheaded PSU's efforts.

When the Nittany Lions extended an offer recently, Figueroa jumped at the opportunity, committing by phone Wednesday morning.

His only other offer at the time of the commitment was from William & Mary, but he felt Rutgers and Virginia would have offered had he waited. He saw no reason to delay, though.

Figueroa is interested in a business and/or criminal justice major, and feels Penn State is strong in both areas.

“Academics were a big factor,” he said. “That was one of the first things, seeing if they had what I wanted to study. Plus, it is a great school with a great graduation rate. There is the tradition of the program, the great coaches, all those things, too. It is a big campus and beautiful.”

Figueroa began his high school career as an offensive tackle, but shifted to guard when the team implemented a new power-running attack for his junior season. He believes he will play guard for the Nittany Lions and said he would not mind getting a crack at center, too.

“I think my footwork is pretty good for a big guy,” he said. “My technique is good, too. I would say if I have to work on one thing the hardest, it is overall strength. When you get to the Division I level, everyone is bigger, stronger and faster. I also have to keep improving my technique.”

Coming up on his fourth straight year of living in the Alexandria area — his dad, Frank Sr., has since retired from the Army after 26 years — this is the longest Frank Jr. has ever stayed in one place. But even though the travel may have led to his football career getting a late start, he believes it has helped him in many other ways.

“It's a huge positive,” he said. “It helps you interact with people more, because everywhere you go, all the other kids are also moving every three years. It helps you talk to people more easily and make friends more easily.”

He'll have the chance to put those skills to work in the summer of 2009, when he arrives in Happy Valley. It will be the beginning of one journey and the end of another.

“I set my goals high and went after them very hard, training after school every day since my freshman year,” Figueroa said. “I may have missed five days since then. I know hard work is what's always going to get me through. I just kept working hard since my freshman year to reach my goal.

“And here were are,” he added.


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