Last week, Von Walker found himself sitting in the office of Penn State head coach Bill O'Brien. The standout athlete from Central Mountain High School in nearby Mill Hall, Pa., and his parents were invited up by Nittany Lions assistant Mac McWhorter, but he still didn't know what to expect.
Walker will join Penn State's run-on program.
Before the meeting was over, Walker had taken them up on their offer to join the program beginning in the summer as a 'run-on,' O'Brien's version of a preferred walk-on.
"It all happened really fast. Penn State was recruiting me, but I didn't really know where I stood with everyone else," he explained. "Coach McWhorter told my high school coach that he wanted to meet with me. My parents and I talked about it we didn't really know what we were going to do. We thought that we were going to meet with about 30 other preferred walk-on players, so I had no idea.
"We got there and it was Coach O'Brien and Mac McWhorter. We sat there and talked, one thing led to another and he told me that he wanted me as a preferred walk-on. He said that he wanted me to be a slot back like Alex Kenney or an H-back.
"I was in love. I said, 'All right, I'm coming.' That was it."
Like many in the area, Walker is a lifelong fan of the Nittany Lions. He said that O'Brien told him that he was the type of player that would play a big part in Penn State's 'run-on' program in the coming years.
"Growing up in Central Pennsylvania, it's all about Penn State," he said. "It's always been the dream to go there. Everyone talks about it like it's a big deal. Coach O'Brien explained to me that he wants kids from Pennsylvania because they understand the importance of playing at Penn State. I think he really got that.
"It is a big deal. If I would have gotten a scholarship from a different school I still would have picked Penn State. That's what I had my heart set on."
The 6-foot, 195-pound Walker ran for over 1,500 yards and threw for more than 1,000 yards as a senior. He set the Clinton County rushing record a few games into the season this year. Central Mountain fell to State College in the opening round of the District 6-9 Class AAAA playoffs in November.
Despite impressive offensive numbers, Walker expected to end up on the defensive side of the ball at Penn State.
"I was really pleased with that because I thought they were looking at me as a defensive back," he said. "I've always been worried about it because I don't think that I'm as productive on the defensive side of the ball. I think I'm better with the ball in my hands.
"During high school I was a quarterback, and I think everyone realizes I can't be a quarterback at the college level. I do feel really confident when he says slot back and H-back. I've been playing those positions all my life. I wasn't expecting it, but I am really happy with that."
Walker said that he's eager to prove that he can hang in a BCS program, even if he'll be paying for the chance to do so.
"When we were sitting down with Coach O'Brien, everyone was talking about the money. I told him that I wasn't really worried about it, I like being the guy that earns the position," he said. "I don't want to be the guy that walks in and expects to have something. I don't think that's right.
"I told him, the kids who get the scholarships can end up getting beat out by the kids who are pissed off because they didn't. We had a good laugh about it, but I guess I'm just excited to start something new."
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