Editor's Note: This is the first in a series of stories that will profile each of the players in Penn State's Class of 2012.
Derek Dowrey has coaching in his blood.
Derek Dowrey, Sr., is a football coach. He's always been a football coach and will always be one.
"It was the only thing I ever wanted to do," he said.
Derek Dowrey, Jr., is likely destined for the coaching ranks as well. He has some playing left to do, though.
The big defensive tackle from Winchester, Va., is one of 18 Penn State freshmen who will arrive on campus next month. His father, the offensive coordinator for the last two seasons at John Handley High School and Dowrey's coach from the time he started playing football, was an important influence.
"I think it definitely gave me an advantage because I learned football from a coach," Dowrey said. "There are a lot of football fans but there's a difference in your knowledge of the game when you coach it, when you've been around it for so long like he has.
"I've had football conversations with my dad that were very in-depth. Everything I heard as a kid was good information, and I kept building on that. It was a good base to start my football career."
Derek Sr. was a tailback at Division III Bridgewater College, where he also played lacrosse and ran track. He joined the coaching staff at Handley in the early 1990s but stepped down so he could watch his sons -- Derek and Jordan, three years younger -- play youth football. When Derek reached high school, his father rejoined the staff.
A running back in youth football, Dowrey was a two-way lineman by the time he began his high school career as a freshman. He had size, strength and quickness, but he also had an understanding of the game that few of his teammates did.
"He's always followed not just the players but the schemes and background of things," Derek Sr. said. "It was pretty easy for him to pick things up when he was young."
The 6-foot-3, 280-pound Dowrey averaged 127 tackles and 11 sacks during his final three seasons at Handley. Playing nose guard, he learned to handle the double-teams that came his way with increasing frequency later in his career.
"I like to think I go 100 percent on every play," he said. "It's something I always think about and am always trying to do. I try to go all-out the entire game."
Dowrey, a three-star prospect, committed to Penn State last June. He admitted he took "a step back" and gave serious thought to his decision after the Sandusky scandal broke, but attended the Nittany Lions' game against Nebraska. He was moved by the pregame prayer and impressed by the coaches' desire to continue recruiting hard even though, as Dowrey said, their own futures were up in the air.
"At that point I knew that Penn State was still the place I wanted to go," he said.
Dowrey said he plans to major in kinesiology at Penn State. If there were a football coaching major, he'd be one of the first to sign up. Like his father, he knew his career path from a young age.
"I didn't think I could go without football," Dowrey said. "I felt like I had to have football in my life somehow. So the next step was which path within football would you want to take. I was raised by a coach. I try to understand the game. I'm a student of the game and I will learn the things I don't know already."
He's already made at least one player better. Jordan, who will be a junior at Handley this fall, lined up against him as the center during every practice last season. The brothers went after each other on every snap.
"It was good most of the time," Dowrey said. "Obviously, there were a few times where things got a little heated and we came home and things were tense. But we both benefited from it. He was a pretty good offensive lineman, which helped me, and I felt I pushed him to be better."
Jordan Dowrey hopes to play college football as well, and is just beginning the recruiting process.
"It'll be interesting to see how he handles being out of the big shadow," Derek Sr. said. "Because Derek's cast a pretty big shadow."