- Josh Moyer, ESPN Staff Writer
Garrett Sickels (Little Silver, N.J./Red Bank) isn't going anywhere.
The four-star defensive end committed March 4, and he said nothing -- outside of the death penalty or the resignation of Bill O'Brien -- could change his mind.
He spent the weekend in Happy Valley with his parents and recently caught up with NittanyNation. The 6-foot-4, 225-pound prospect talked about why he remains committed to Penn State and his thoughts on the season-opening loss:
NittanyNation: What surprised you the most -- or stood out the most -- during your weekend visit?
Garrett Sickels: During the game, Adam Breneman and I were lining up near the tunnel and people were yelling our names and people in the student section were going crazy. We didn't even sign a Letter of Intent yet, and people are behind us.
But the thing that stood out the most happened to me Sunday. My mother went to [clothing/merchandise store] Lions Pride one last time before we left, and a kid walked up to me and said, 'Are you Garrett Sickels?' And I'm like, 'Yeah.' And he said, 'Can I take a picture?' That was something very special to me. It's very humbling.
NN: As a defensive end, do you feel a little uneasy about playing in a defense like this after watching it allow almost 500 yards?
GS: No, not at all. It's the first game. For me, it's just one game and it's not like a red flag or anything. You'll always get better, and you just need to accept that. They're going to be fine next week. They have a great staff and a great defense, and there was a lot luck there, too, like when that ball went through the defender's hands [on the 42-yard touchdown pass].
The defensive line is still great. They're coached by Larry Johnson, and I'll have an opportunity to play there one day, and it's awesome for me to have an opportunity to learn from the best. It's great; they're relentless.
NN: Outside of the Blue-White Game, Saturday was your first taste of a home crowd at Beaver Stadium. What were you impressions there?
GS: It was definitely an amazing atmosphere; it was nothing I expected. I saw film on YouTube of the crowd, but this just put that all to shame. It was just unbelievable; the fan section and stuff is the best in the nation. It really showed Penn State is still Penn State.
It's just one of those things. As soon as we got off the highway and pulled into campus and saw the stadium, it's like this is where I belong. This is the place where I have to be.
NN: Was Penn State always your top school?
GS: Originally, early in the process, Penn State wasn't even in my top 5. In June , I went up to Penn State and I liked it -- I thought everything was great -- but things just weren't clicking with the old staff. I loved Coach Johnson, but I felt there was something weird about it and then, in the fall, that whole thing came out with [Jerry] Sandusky. My original top 5 was Florida, Georgia, Ohio State, Rutgers and Notre Dame.
But, then in February, [PSU tight ends] coach [John] Strollo -- he's from Long Branch High School, which is Red Bank's rival -- said go to Junior Day and meet our new staff. My mom said, 'Before you cross it off, just go out there.'
NN: So that visit changed your mind then? What happened?
GS: Well, I saw they had Bill O'Brien -- and you can't ask for a better coach -- and Ted Roof from Auburn. I was like, 'Wow, this was it.' We went out there and after a day being around the new staff, I said, 'Mom, I don't want to play for another staff. I don't want to be at another place, I want to be at this university. I want to get a degree here, and I want to make myself a name here.'
My dad's like, 'Let's just go see Notre Dame.' And a week later I sat down my parents and said I really didn't want to take those trips anymore. We went to Rutgers the day after Penn State's Junior Day, and it felt completely different. I've gone to schools I felt were No. 1 and then gone to other schools and felt fine. But when I went to Rutgers, I'm like, why am I even here? My heart is at Penn State.
NN: Did you still feel the same way even with the sanctions were announced? How difficult did that make your decision?
GS: The week before the sanctions came out was definitely hard. I was with Brendan [Mahon] and we couldn't each lunch. When that day came, I woke up, talked with my dad, and everyone was saying what the terms were -- and it was a punch in the gut. It was tough at first and I asked Brendan, I said, 'Are you staying?' And he said, 'If you're staying.' I didn't want to go anywhere else. Coaches did contact me, but I didn't want to go anywhere else and neither did Brendan.
A Nebraska fan said, 'Why would a blue-chip player go to Penn State? Come to Nebraska!' and I told him because it's still Penn State. I feel like it's worth a lot more to stand by your word and show Penn State isn't going anywhere.
NN: What was your reaction when you and Brendan started watching some recruits from the Class of 2013 decommit?
GS: To be honest, we didn't think some people were going to stay until the end. But the way I've always thought of it -- and what O'Brien says -- is that the measure of a man is how he overcomes adversity. I mean, so the commits dropped out, I wish them the best of luck, but I feel like I made the best decision of my life staying at Penn State.
1dBrian Bennett and Josh Moyer