Garrett Sickels learned an important lesson during the week he spent in San Antonio, Texas, at the U.S. Army All-American Game: If you're going to share a room with Big Baby, you had better bring some big earplugs.
Mahon, center, and Sickels, right, with Hackenberg, say they already get along -- and squabble -- like brothers.
"I love him," Sickels said of his fellow Penn State commitment and fellow New Jersey native, Brendan Mahon, "but he's a snorer. I was tired for a week. He got sandals thrown at him, pillows, Gatorade bottles."
Sickels and Mahon, two of a dozen prospects expected to sign with the Nittany Lions on Wednesday, are as close as any two recruits in what is, by all accounts, a drum-tight class. But they're in agreement that they're not going to be roommates when they arrive in State College this summer.
"I think it would ruin our relationship," Mahon said. "It doesn't mean I don't love the kid. But we'd be better off if we could go home to different rooms."
Mahon, the offensive lineman from Randolph, N.J., and Sickels, the defensive end from Red Bank Regional High School in Little Silver, N.J., met at a Rutgers junior day through a mutual acquaintance, Toms River offensive lineman Brad Henson, now a North Carolina commit.
"We didn't talk much," Sickels recalled.
The three Jersey prospects saw each other again at Penn State's junior day last February. That's when Sickels and Mahon began to realize that both of them were, as Mahon put it "ball-busters."
"We started opening the shells a little bit then," Mahon said.
And as the pair was getting more comfortable with one another, both were getting comfortable with Penn State's campus and the program.
"We just fell in love with the place immediately," Mahon said. "That was something we started to have in common."
Sickels committed on March 4 and began sending daily text messages to Mahon, who pulled the trigger just about two weeks later, urging him to do the same. About a month after that, both visited Penn State for the Blue-White Game, and their families got to know each other.
When the NCAA sanctions hit in July, Sickels' phone was immediately flooded with calls from other schools, reporters, people who wanted to know what he thought about all of it. He turned it off. When he turned it back on, the first person he called was Mahon.
"Even if we didn't talk, I knew he was going to stay and I was going to stay," Sickels said.
Last month, in San Antonio, when they weren't goofing around and bickering like brothers, Sickels and Mahon were impressing coaches -- and one another -- on the practice field. Sickels loved the way Mahon quickly stepped up when the East squad needed a center, a position he hadn't played before.
"Brendan killed it," Sickels said. "He's a workhorse. People don't see as much as they should, but he has a huge heart too. He comes off as brash, but he's got a huge heart. He'd do anything for his team to win."
Mahon enjoyed watching his roommate in action as well.
"Garrett has a motor," Mahon said. "He's a hard worker and he's not going to stop until the whistle blows. That's the playing style we have in common. He's strong, fast, can play anywhere."
During one practice scrimmage, Sickels beat the guard on an option play, scooped up a fumble and took it into the end zone. Mahon wasn't happy, but didn't miss the opportunity to needle his buddy.
"I told him 'I couldn't make it any easier for you,'" Mahon said.
That was as close as the two players ever got to squaring off head-to-head, although, as Sickels said, "I'm sure there'll be at least one rep over the next four years we'll go against each other."
Mahon plans to room with Christian Hackenberg, and Sickels will likely wind up with Parker Cothren. But it might be hard to find any pair of Penn State roommates that will be as close as Mahon and Sickels have already become.
"We'll be the first one to mess with the other one but the first one to have his back if anything happens," Mahon said. "I've only known him for eight months but he's a part of my family and I'm part of his."
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