Tom Pancoast (Kennett Square, Pa./Unionville) turned down scholarship offers from Bucknell and Colgate to commit to Penn State as a walk-on. The senior -- who plays quarterback and safety -- recently spoke with NittanyNation at length about his decision.
NittanyNation: You turned down two FCS scholarship offers to walk-on to Penn State. Was that a difficult decision, or did you know all along you were going to go here?
Tom Pancoast: Yeah, it was hard because Bucknell, they said I could get a $58,000-a-year scholarship and it's a great education there. It's a little harder to go to Penn State and eventually earn a scholarship. So I want to say it was a hard decision, but I feel like I knew I always wanted to go to Penn State. I feel like I couldn't live with myself knowning I wanted to do that, that I always wanted to do that as a kid and couldn't pass it up.
NN: So you kind of knew, if you went somewhere else besides PSU, you'd regret it for the rest of your life?
TP: Yeah. Growing up a Penn State fan and the tradition they have at Penn State really influenced my decision. When I just tweeted something about Penn State, I gained about 15-20 followers, just random Penn State fans. Just the background and tradition, everything that comes with it, people really do bleed blue and white.
I kind of wanted to wait to see if I'd pick up any other offers. But when it came down to it, I've been a big Penn State fan my whole life -- and you just can't compare the football that Penn State has to the I-AA level.
NN: Different teams were looking at you at different positions, so what will you be playing at Penn State?
TP: It really came down to quarterback and safety, and they let me choose. They were leaning toward me as a safety and on Sunday, the 'Run-on Day' they had, they asked me if I wanted to go with both. But I decided to go strictly with the safeties.
I just feel I have a better chance on the field as a safety. I love playing both positions, but them being thin in the secondary and me able able to see the field in other ways like special teams and stuff playing safety, I just felt had a chance to see more playing time that way.
NN: What do you think separates you as a safety, that made PSU believe you could contribute there? And what do you feel like you need to get better at?
TP: Well, I mean, definitely just being like a 6-foot-4 safety is kind of out of the blue because most guys my size can't move that well. And I can, and I do well in the run game.
And I'd say, improving, it's just translating my game to college. It's much quicker, so I need to work on my speed and agility a little bit.
NN: What's your earliest Penn State memory, and when did you first want to play for PSU?
TP: Back when I was in fifth grade, actually. I remember my dad turning on the Orange Bowl game in 2005. That's probably my earliest Penn State memory and then 2008, going to my first Penn State game with my family. They beat Michigan; just experiencing the crowd was amazing.
And, back when I was a kid in 2005, I always wanted to play for Penn State. It was always in the back of my mind. It was like a vision of what it could come to one day. I thought it could potentially happen.
NN: What are your goals for this season and your career?
TP: I was already talking to the coaches about being on special teams this year as a freshman. And I definitely want to see serious time as a junior as a defensive back.