Part 2: Behind the scenes with Reihner

The Bootleg: Growing up in Pennsylvania with a father [George Reihner] who played football at Penn State, how much pressure did you feel to become a Nittany Lion? (Read on!)

Kevin Reihner: I never felt compelled to go to Penn State. The only time I felt compelled to Penn State was when I wanted to go to Penn State at certain times [within my recruitment.] There wasn't any outside pressure. There was sometimes internal pressure. You go to games and see 100,000-plus people going crazy, I mean it's worshiped. The spring practice is being reported on the first page of my local newspaper, so there's a certain pride in it. My coach was a fraternity brother with my dad at PSU, and uncles and aunts went there but no one said, ‘Kevin, you have to go to Penn State.' And as much fun as I would have playing ball at Penn State, playing in the Big Ten at Happy Valley and putting on the same uniform as my dad did, I also want to be a doctor. I'm going to go to the No.1 biology school in the country and I'm darn happy to do it.

TB: Still, there must have been some schools and coaches that it was hard to reject?

KR: Brian Angelichio from Pittsburgh. He talked to my coach about me before September 1 of my junior year, and I had gone up to visit there multiple times. He's probably not too happy with me right now, but I wouldn't even consider him a recruiter anymore, I'd consider him a friend. I called everyone else [first] and then I sat down for about ten minutes and tried to get my stuff together because I didn't want to cry on the phone, but that didn't work out. He was a classy guy and he didn't twist my arm about it and say ‘You belong at Pitt.' He was just great about it. I'm sure he wasn't happy to hear it either, because they really wanted me at Pitt and I've gone to Pitt and I know for a fact that if I would have gone to Pittsburgh, I would have had a great college experience. It wasn't like there was a good choice and a bad choice. There were two near-perfect choices, but Stanford was just more perfect for me.

TB: Speaking of Pitt, I know that they were your No. 1 choice for quite some time, even after you made an unofficial visit to Happy Valley. What was it about Stanford that allowed them to vault ahead of the Panthers for your commitment?

KR: If you look schematically, they're trying to do the same things. They're trying to run the football and that's why I love both of them from a pure football sense. They both have great staffs. They're both blue-collar, ex-players with all kinds of NFL experience. From a pure football standpoint they have a lot in common. So I don't think it was random that they came down to two of my four top choices. Northwestern was a very viable option as was Penn State.

But it's just you go out to Stanford and it's such a special place. Eating lunch with the faculty members who just stood up and not bragging, but they can just tell stories about the connections and the Stanford network and the opportunities you'll have as a Stanford man. And my mom just looked at me and said, 'How can you say no?' It's just a once in a lifetime… for very few, it's a once in a lifetime opportunity. For most people it just never happens. But it is the No. 1 FBS university in the country and it's obviously in a beautiful place, but I don't want people to think that I'm making my decision just because it's pretty. If Stanford were in Antarctica I'd still want to go there because of its people, academic prestige, and [the fact that] we're going to start winning a lot of football games.

TB: Back to Penn State, I heard from somewhere they might have offered. Can you discuss the situation with them?

KR: I guess technically it's an offer, but that wasn't really circulated by us on the Reihner end. I called Coach Anderson and told him that I would be accepting my Stanford offer, and I think they were kind of caught off-guard, because they got caught up looking at mom, dad, aunt, uncle, coach all went to Penn State so they thought I was a Penn State guy, which is a pretty understandable train of thought. And they said, ‘You know that offer's coming, right? You know that making this decision?' I said when we sat down and talked about whether I should commit Friday night at dinner with just the family my dad asked me if I would make the decision if Penn State came through and offered. And I looked him back in the eye and said to him ‘If I had every Division I offer in the country I'd go to Stanford University.'

TB: Just to clarify, it seems like the Penn State offer situation was pretty fluid?

KR: For a long time they just said I was looking pretty good for an offer. I don't really want to get into a numbers game but they have a tiny, tiny class this year, 14 scholarships. They told me they wanted to take one or potentially two guards. They offered somebody else so I stopped waiting and accepted it. I would definitely be excited if it happened and then Stanford was what it was, so it didn't really matter what they did.

TB: Moving on, in some of the past articles I read about you, you were quoted as saying you wanted to graduate high school and enroll early in college. Traditionally, Stanford hasn't really had any early enrollees, so if you could just talk what your thoughts are about that?

KR: I would love to do that at Stanford, but the fact is no one has really done that before their freshman year at Stanford. Some people have done it as a grayshirt and postponed their freshman year but no one has enrolled that early before their true freshman year. And that's just because the academic portion of Stanford doesn't feel comfortable with it and they have their curriculum set up a certain way. Would I love to make it happen, do I think it would be a great opportunity and would I love to spend winter in the Bay Area California as opposed to Scranton, Pennsylvania? Yes, but as I told Coach Harbaugh it's not a deal-breaker. Obviously it's not because I just verbally committed. But if it happens, I'd love it. If it doesn't I'll just enroll in the summer quarter with the rest of my class.

TB: Are there still some discussions going on between the football staff and the academic people to see if that might be a possibility?

KR: Yeah, I'm out of it now. It's no longer up to me. I'm just going to do what I'm told.

TB: You mentioned meeting with the offensive line position coaches a few times over the course of the weekend. Talk about the relationship you have with Coaches Greg Roman and Tim Drevno, and how important that was to your decision?

KR: Great people. Coach Roman's a Jersey guy, an East Coast guy and he assured me that the Bay Area has perfect weather, pretty girls are always walking by, palm trees, 60 degree weather all 12 months. You get a pretty cushy lifestyle. But his whole thing is we're still a tough, tough, physical football team. We always like to say we're bringing the East Coast toughness to the West Coast. Coach Drevno he's an ex-player, really very personable and they just both work together so well. I mean two line coaches… their titles be what they may, they both pretty much work with the line. Coach Roman has some additional play-calling responsibilities, but it's not that there's a hierarchy at all. They work together just like everyone else on the staff does.

It just shows Coach Harbaugh's commitment to the line. It's pretty impressive for a former quarterback, a throw-the-ball type of guy, that they want to run the football. They work together so well and they teach you how to be a great technical football player. They're going to get on me when I'm not doing it right but they're going to be the first guys to hug me when I am doing it right so I'm pretty excited to be working with them.


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