Editor's Note: This is the 14th in a series of stories that will profile each of the players in Penn State's Class of 2012.
Former DeMatha star Brent Wilkerson will begin his Penn State career at tight end.
DeMatha is one of the top high school football teams in the Northeast. The catholic school in Hyattsville, Md., sends several players onto the nation's top college programs each year, counting the likes of Brian Westbrook, Josh Owens, Edwin Williams and Cameron Wake among its alumni.
Those alumni stick together, which helped Penn State land one of its top prospects of the Class of 2012.
Rogers Alexander, who played at DeMatha before going on to star at linebacker for the Nittany Lions in the 1980s, is a family friend of Brent Wilkerson, who starred at tight end and defensive end for DeMatha the past few years. Alexander put in a good word for his alma mater, and it paid off.
"Rogers gave a great sales job on Penn State," former DeMatha coach Bill McGregor said. "Brent came in not long after that and told me, 'I know where I'm going.'"
Wilkerson, a four-star prospect, was hotly pursued by several schools -- including Illinois, Iowa, Nebraska, Michigan State and South Carolina -- because of his size, athleticism and versatility. Earlier in his high school career he ran track -- the 6-foot-4, 245-pounder has been unofficially timed at 4.7 seconds in the 40-yard dash -- and was a member of the junior varsity squad of DeMatha's nationally renowned basketball team.
During his time at DeMatha, Wilkerson played behind or alongside players like Darian Cooper (a defensive tackle now at Iowa) and Austin Bailey (a fullback at Akron) and against opponents like Stefon Diggs and Wes Brown of Good Counsel High School, both top offensive skill players who signed with Maryland this winter.
"To be the best you have to go against the best," Wilkerson said. "That's what my motto was."
Perhaps no one pushed Wilkerson to be better more than Michael Moore, who like Wilkerson played both tight end and defensive end at DeMatha.
"I think it helped him a lot," McGregor said. "He and Michael were best friends. If Mike was there, Brent was there. Both were very similar type of young men -- they don't say a whole lot, pretty quiet, reserved. At the same time they know what they want to do, and they came to DeMatha to have that dream come true for them. … Your goals are the same, the work ethic is the same, and you're able to work together."
There's a good chance the friends will at least see each other, if not square off on the field, this fall; Moore, the son of Virginia tight ends coach Shawn Moore, signed with the Cavaliers, who will host Penn State on Sept. 8.
McGregor, now an assistant coach at the Gilman School, believes Wilkerson could have an impact as a special teams player and excel on either side of the ball for the Nittany Lions. Where he'll spend the majority of his Penn State career remains to be seen, but he'll begin that career as a tight end. He's stoked about what new coach Bill O'Brien has in store for the position.
"It's very exciting just to have the opportunity to play for him," Wilkerson said. "He knows how to use the tight ends, does multiple things with them."
Wilkerson committed to Penn State in March of 2011 then reaffirmed his pledge in January. O'Brien's history with tight ends played a factor but so did Wilkerson's impression of the university as a whole.
"It just had a good balance of big-time football and getting your degree and the education," Wilkerson said. "That'll never change, no matter who the coach is."