Copyright 2014 Philadelphia Newspapers, LLC
All Rights Reserved
STATE COLLEGE, Pa. - James Franklin pulled out all the stops when he welcomed his first recruits to Penn State.
Wednesday was college football's national signing day, when high school players made their commitments official, and Franklin introduced the Nittany Lions' newest 25 players that evening at the Bryce Jordan Center.
In front of a "whiteout" crowd, Franklin described each of Penn State's incoming freshmen for next season. Twenty players faxed in their signatures to the coaching staff that morning. The other five enrolled early and count as 2013 enrollees.
This is the first time Penn State has organized such a fan-focused event for national signing day, and it drew an estimated 3,600 students and fans. According to NCAA rules, college football coaches are not allowed to discuss their recruits until they have officially signed on. Franklin broke his silence in a big way Wednesday.
"This is going to be a yearly event," he said. "We're going to come out and party like this once a year."
Many members of the team attended the event, dressed in their white jerseys. Chants from the crowd of "Go State, Beat Knights" - referencing Penn State's first 2014 opponent, Central Florida - created a pep rally atmosphere six months ahead of the Lions' opening game in Dublin, Ireland.
The event also featured speeches by former Penn State linebackers LaVar Arrington and Michael Mauti.
"We are a family that no one will ever break," Arrington said. "I'm sure you guys know I haven't been around, but I always am around."
Arrington, now a radio host in the Washington area, informally interviewed Franklin at center court of the arena. They broke down film of some of the early enrollees for the crowd, to the amusement of some players watching from the stands.
Franklin and Arrington exchanged banter over the remainder of the recruits as film showcased each player's skill set on the scoreboard. The crowd often gasped at some of the high schoolers' biggest plays.
"This is a celebration of all the hard work we put in," Franklin said. "I think that's very important from a morale standpoint, that you take some time to take it all in. We didn't have a lot of drama. The guys we expected to sign signed."