Samoan Chooses Nittany Lions

Amani Purcell, a coveted defensive prospect from American Samoa, chose the Nittany Lions this week after taking official visits to Hawaii, Utah, Penn State and Colorado. He will sign an Letter Of Intent with Penn State today.

Name: Amani Purcell
Position: DE, LB
Height: 6'3"
Weight: 240 pounds
40-yard dash: 4.5
School: Leone High, Pago Pago, AS

Amani played both tight-end and defensive-end for Leone High School in American Samoa.

How did Penn State find out about the prized recruit who lives 2,300 miles to the south of Hawaii?

"They were recruiting a kid out of California, and they came across Amani over there somehow," Leone head football coach Oakland Salavea said Monday.  "I think it was from a guy whose nephew out of California (presumably Matt Malele) is being recruited by Penn State."

Amani will play on the defensive side of the ball in college.

"I hear from the Penn State coach down here, Brian Norwood, that he might try him at outside linebacker, defensive-end position.  All the schools are interested in him as a defensive-end type person for them, mostly the 7 position.  That's almost similar to a linebacker, outside linebacker.  He's tremendous because he has a very good first step and is tremendous coming off the ball, which is I think what caught the eye of a lot of these recruiters.

"Wherever he's going to be, he's going to make an impact for that program.  He's a tremendous worker, hard worker and a hard player.  He plays hard every down."

Amani's brother, Melila Purcell, is a freshman defensive lineman at the University of Hawaii.

"They're very similar.  They both play basketball.  UH fell in love with the older brother.  He was our tight-end.  The older brother is now 6'6", 250 and he's only spent one semester at UH.  Amani's going to grow.  Penn State is expecting an awful lot from him.

"He's been talking more Penn State football than ever.  He enjoyed his visit, he really did.  He thought that Joe Paterno was great.  He really liked his visit with Coach Paterno."

Amani combined all of his official visits into a two week span.

"I've been back for a week," Amani said Monday night.  "I think I left on the 13th [of January].  I went to Hawaii first.  I got there Tuesday morning and was there until the 16th I believe.  Then, I went to Utah until around the 19th.  There's all on different timezones so it's confusing.  Then I went all the way to Penn State on the 19th I guess and was there a few days.  It was during the week.  From Penn State, I came back to Salt Lake City and had a layover for about a day.  I came back on a Wednesday night and stayed until Thursday night and then flew out on Friday to Colorado.  I came back the following Monday."

According to Amani, all four of those schools offered him a scholarship.  Others were very interested as well.

"Tennessee and Oklahoma were trying to get me out there and everything, but I had to come back for school."

Several coaches made the trip to American Samoa to visit with Amani and his family.

"The head coach for Hawaii, June Jones, and the assistant coach that was recruiting me, Rich Miano, were here.  Utah's head coach, Coach Meyer, came down with his assistant coach, Coach Busch, and Brian Norwood, the coach from Penn State, came.  The Colorado coach was trying to make it down together with the coach from Penn State, but he didn't have a passport, so he couldn't come down.  I think he was stuck in L.A. because they told he couldn't come down without a passport."

Penn State assistant coach Brian Norwood arrived on Friday and left Monday evening.

"On Saturday morning, we went to breakfast and showed him around the island and then he came and talked to my parents."

"He was happy," Purcell said after acknowledging that he gave Coach Norwood a verbal commitment.

Penn State is recruiting him to play either defensive end or outside linebacker.

"I think I'm pretty much going to play d-end."

Why did he choose Penn State?

"Just the tradition. They have a lot of people involved in supporting the players. I just liked it. When I got there, I just had this feeling, I can't explain it. I really liked it up there. I kind of feel special that they're giving me a chance, being from all the way out here.

"I just like the way everything was all organized, the way Joe Paterno wants things. I liked the people there. Everyone is very supportive and you have a lot of people helping out the football players with academic support."

As is the case with all official visits, Purcell was able to spend some time with current Penn State football players.

"Because I got there around midnight, Coach Norwood just put me in a hotel.  But later, I was with a player named Jason.  He was a defensive tackle (Jason Robinson).  I was with him and another guy, a DB.  He had an injury, a knee problem last year, I think during practice (Yaacov Yisreal).  I was with them when some of them were lifting and everything and I got to eat dinner with them and stuff."

Amani is approximately 6'3" and currently weighs between 235-240 pounds.  Last year, he was timed running the 40-yard dash in 4.5 seconds.  He listed stopping the run and rushing the quarterback as his strengths.

"This season, most of the time, they had two or three guys on me, so it was kind of hard.  I won the MVP for the All-Star game on defense."

Penn State started recruiting Amani during his senior football season back in November according to Amani's estimation.  He and his coach sent tapes to the Penn State coaching staff prior to his official visit.  Penn State offered him a scholarship during his visit to Happy Valley.

Purcell, who has lived in American Samoa his whole life, was not bothered by the winter weather in Central Pennsylvania.

"It was kind of cold, but I guess I was kind of used to it because it was cold in Utah."

Althought his older brother had hoped Amani would join him at the University of Hawaii, Amani decided that Penn State was where he wanted to be.

He confirmed Tuesday evening that he would be signing a Letter Of Intent on Wednesday to play football for Penn State.

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