When Curtis Cothran (Newtown, Pa./Council Rock) makes up his mind, he doesn't reflect on the "what-ifs."
The 6-foot-5, 240-pound defensive end needed just a few days to accept Bill O'Brien's March scholarship offer. And, when the NCAA levied unprecedented sanctions in July, he needed just a week to think on his commitment.
Nothing's going to stop him from becoming a Nittany Lion, he said, and he hopes to attend a home game soon. He initially planned to be in the stands for the season opener but said his ride fell through.
The three-star recruit recently talked with NittanyNation at length about the solidarity of his commitment, how he became a Penn State fan and his offseason conditioning.
NittanyNation: What's one area you've really improved at this offseason?
Curtis Cothran: I pretty much improved all my strength. I'm way stronger than last year. My agility and endurance is up way more, and it's shaping up to be a good year. Last year, I was back-squatting like 365 and now I'm back-squatting like 410. Last year I was dead-lifting 380, now I'm at 500. Last year I was benching 275 and now I'm up to 345. So it's been good.
NN: You said before you grew up a Penn State fan. How did that happen?
CC: The only reason I really watched college football is because I was into the Eagles. I'm a big Philadelphia Eagles fan, since back when [Donovan] McNabb and [Brian] Westbrook were in there. That got me into football, so when I started to watch more, I started watching college football.
I live near Philly, and everybody watched Penn State. It was on, so I figured I might as well watch it and then I fell in love with it. Everywhere growing up, I'd see Penn State. So when I'd be dreaming, that's where I saw myself. I'd dream myself walking there, on the field.
NN: What separated Penn State from other schools you were looking at?
CC: When I visited there, everything was top-notch. I visited a couple colleges before that -- Maryland, Temple, Rutgers -- and Penn State was head-and-shoulders above everybody else. I met Coach [Ted] Roof and Coach [Bill] O'Brien, and I thought that it'd be the best fit for me. Especially living around here, you hear about how great the education and alumni are, so you feel like a Penn State grad has a higher-percentage chance to get a job in Pennsylvania.
NN: Did you try to block out being a fan when you picked your school, or did that play a big role in your decision?
CC: I mean, I tried to block that out mostly. That's what my dad was trying to tell me to do. He said look at each school in its own way, look at it individually and then pick the best one. So, I just felt like Penn State was the best place for me. I mean, each school was pretty good. I loved Rutgers, but when Coach [Greg] Schiano went to Tampa Bay, that kind of changed my mind on that. And Maryland was pretty good, too.
NN: What's the biggest thing that stood out to you on your Penn State visit?
CC: The atmosphere. When you walk into Beaver Stadium and you see how big it is, it's just overwhelming. The first time I went, Coach O'Brien called me into his office and told me-face-to-face about [my offer]. I didn't accept it right then; I waited on it a few days.
NN: Why didn't the sanctions change your mind?
CC: I know it's adversity and it's something I'll have to deal with, but I met all the guys in my class and we're the people who want to turn this around. Especially Joe Paterno, him leaving such a legacy and seeing that get so twisted by the end of his career. It's just crazy to me, and I want to restore Penn State's reputation back to where it should be.
I mean, with the sanctions, everybody was shocked. I was shocked, my parents were shocked, so it took a couple days to settle down and I was like, 'Relax, relax. It's still the same school.'
NN: Can you see yourself rethinking your commitment? What if, somehow, Penn State finishes 3-9?
CC: Nope. That's not going to change my mind.
I've had a losing season before. My sophomore year I went 1-9, but we can turn that around. I just know how the tide can turn and how it can turn out for the better. Plus, Coach O'Brien's still going to be the head coach. I just always have the faith they'll make it through.
NN: What are the three most important things to you at Penn State?
CC: No. 1 is education. And, second, just the atmosphere in general, the whole entire school, just everything. It's just how everybody seems to be close together in some way up there. And, oh yeah, football of course.