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Penn State Football Culture Attracting Recruits From Maryland

Sitting behind a banner that read “Quince Orchard Athletics,” Jaylen Harvey waited for a moment and said “Penn State,” into a microphone, then put on a Nittany Lion hat sandwiched between those of USC and Maryland. Cheering and applause from his classmates and family filled the school’s gymnasium, as the four-star edge rusher became the latest prized prospect out of Maryland to commit to Penn State.

This scene has been a familiar one for years, as Penn State football has a successful track record of raiding the state for its best recruits on an annual basis despite the University of Maryland being within close proximity. However, location is one of the many reasons why James Franklin has consistently lured the state’s recruits to Happy Valley rather than choosing to stay home.

“Penn State’s recruited that area well for a very long time,” Franklin said. “This is a tremendous opportunity for young men who want to leave their area and do something different but don’t get too far from home.”

It takes between three to four hours to drive the 199 miles separating Beaver Stadium and SECU Stadium on Maryland’s campus in College Park. However, there’s more to the recruiting success aside from Penn State’s storied program being just a few hours away.

Although he’s a Langhorne, Pennsylvania, native, Franklin knows Maryland well. He used to visit Silver Spring, a suburb outside Washington, D.C., growing up. He worked for the Terrapins on two separate occasions from 2000 to 2004 and from 2008 to 2010 as a coach and recruiting coordinator before bolting for Vanderbilt’s head coaching job. He’s well-connected with coaches at many of the state’s prominent high school football programs, another reason why he’s been able to pry recruits away.

“Obviously between my relationships in the state of Maryland, I was the recruiting coordinator at the University of Maryland for a long time. I recruited P.G. County, D.C., and Maryland for a long time,” Franklin said. “We got a ton of relationships, and I think that’s what it really comes down to.”

“You look at McDonogh — why have we been so successful at McDonogh? Well, PJ Mustipher came in and had a great experience,” he continued. “And at the end of the day, if high school coaches and players come here and have a good experience, and they tell their buddies that, then it lends to more guys wanting to come.”

There are currently 14 players on Penn State’s roster who are either Maryland natives or went to school in the state. Some of the schools they attended include Quince Orchard, McDonogh, Bullis, and DeMatha — all of which are within 45 minutes of College Park.

While several of his teammates ended up choosing to stay home, Penn State’s honesty played a big role in attracting safety Kevin Winston Jr. to Happy Valley. Winston, who was also recruited by Terps’ head coach Mike Locksley, attended DeMatha, which is down the street from the school.

“They were telling me everything that was real, and I wasn’t getting that from other schools. They were telling me straight up coming in that, ‘You have to work yourself into a spot, but we feel like you have the ability to do that and, if you do everything you’re supposed to do, it’s going to happen,'” Winston said. “So once they told me that, the honesty and patience was what I was looking for, so that’s the main reason.”

Winston had a prior relationship with defensive lineman Dvon Ellies, whose hometown is nearby Burtonsville, and fellow defensive lineman Coziah Izzard, who is also a DeMatha alum. His relationship with them and watching their success was another factor in his recruiting process.

“When you see a guy that you grew up with doing it at a high level, it shows you that you could do the same thing,” Winston said.

The sophomore has developed quickly, as he has started every game in 2023. He has 24 total tackles, two fumble recoveries, and two pass breakups so far this season. For him, the culture at Penn State has made it easier to find success.

“When you see how they bring you in with open arms and things like that, it makes you a lot more comfortable to come out and just play the football you’ve been playing your whole life, and it just makes the process a lot easier,” Winston said. “It trickles on from the coaches to the players… It’s just a lot easier to go out here and work hard and put sweat, blood, and tears with these guys knowing you can depend on them.”

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About the Author

Nolan Wick

Nolan is a third-year journalism major from Silver Spring, Maryland, which means he's an avid fan of all D.C. sports teams. If Nolan isn't writing about or watching sports, you can probably find him listening to all sorts of music or traveling. To keep up with Nolan, you can follow him on Twitter @nolan_wick or email him at [email protected].

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