Editor's Note: This is the fifth in a series of stories that will profile each of the players in Penn State's Class of 2012. You can read the previous stories below.
Malik Golden will likely begin his Penn State career as a wide receiver.
Malik Golden always knew where to look for direction -- his mother, Diane.
In the spring of 2010, though, Golden didn't know what to do. Diane had felt a lump in her neck in March, and in early May -- on the same day her brother died of neck and brain cancer -- she was diagnosed with breast cancer.
At the time, Golden was wrapping up his sophomore year at Newington High School in Newington, Conn. Inspired in part by his mother, he transferred to Cheshire Academy for his junior year.
"At Newington I was an average kid," Golden said. "I wanted to make her more proud."
Golden had his sights on Cheshire years earlier, but his parents -- Diane and Elijah -- had said they wouldn't have been able to afford it. This time, he was awarded a full scholarship for his junior season, and off to Cheshire he went.
Diane liked the fact that students at Cheshire had a mandatory study period from 8-10 p.m. each night. Her son believed the football program would give him more exposure to major college programs.
They were both right.
"It was a great move," Diane said. "A great move."
Golden thrived at Cheshire, becoming the third-ranked player in the state and attracting offers from Iowa, Boston College and Connecticut in addition to Penn State.
When he re-opened his recruitment after the Sandusky scandal and coaching change, Duke, Georgia Tech and Wisconsin entered the fray, but Golden -- getting some advice from his mom -- ultimately decided to sign with the Nittany Lions, believing Bill O'Brien would maintain the same values and emphasis on academics as the previous staff.
"For me Penn State's still Penn State," he said. "I wasn't going to let that situation affect me."
Golden is less than two weeks from officially beginning his college career. He said Penn State's coaches plan to use him as a wide receiver during his freshman season but he wouldn't be entirely surprised if he was moved to the secondary.
"I think (playing) wide receiver came more naturally," he said. "But in high school, I liked shutting down another receiver. I think I could be a great corner."
Golden has developed a close relationship with his soon-to-be roommate, fellow New Englander Jake Kiley. The two squared off in the NEPSAC championship game during their junior season. Kiley's New Hampton (N.H.) team got off to a strong start before Cheshire -- led by 300 all-purpose yards and three touchdowns from Golden -- eventually pulled away for a 49-20 win.
Kiley will come to Penn State with one championship ring. Golden has two, and plans to good-naturedly remind his roommate of that fact whenever possible.
"I'm probably going to put them up in my room somewhere," he said.
After 25 treatments of chemotherapy and 33 of radiation, Diane went into remission in February 2011 and resumed her job as an OB/GYN nurse. She was there when Malik signed his letter of intent this past February and will be there to see him begin his Penn State career. The son has more than made his mother proud.
"It's bittersweet," she said. "I'm glad he's going away to get a good education, but we're going to miss him a lot around here."