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Thursday, January 31, 2013
RB Chiappialle runs-on to Penn State

By Josh Moyer

When Cole Chiappialle peeled off his yellow helmet after his final high school game, he figured he'd next step foot on a field at a Div. II school.

He figured he'd see scant crowds. He thought maybe he'd play at Cal (Pa.) University or Notre Dame College of Ohio. He wondered if he'd cradle that pigskin as an early starter.

But, more than anything, the tailback out of Beaver Falls (Pa.) Blackhawk thought -- and hoped -- for a bigger opportunity.

Penn State assistant Charlie Fisher came calling weeks after Chiappialle's final game, and the tailback's imagination ran as wild as he did Oct. 21 in a 404-yard effort. If Penn State offered him a walk-on position, he knew he'd take it. He twice called it a "no-brainer."

So, on Wednesday afternoon, as he sat inside his yellow Hyundai Tiburon, he wondered if Fisher might have some good news. He called the PSU coach and, after some small talk right after class, Fisher told him they wanted him as a run-on.

"You're invited up," he remembered Fisher telling him. "All we need next is your commitment."

Chiappialle didn't even pause. "I said, 'OK. You got it.' "

Chiappialle broke the news on Twitter, and he said he's since been overwhelmed with congratulations, pats on the back -- and new Twitter followers -- from friends, family and plenty of strangers. He admitted he's not the fastest tailback, but he's quick and boasts good vision.

He rushed for 1,504 yards, scored 27 touchdowns and caught 49 passes for 523 yards his senior season. The 5-foot-11, 200-pound back said he's versatile but needs to bulk up a bit and increase his speed.

"My top goal is to start," he said. "I would love that opportunity. But, right now, my goal is to go up there and work hard every day, every time I'm on the field, every time I'm in class. Everywhere. And, if I do that and not take a break for one day, I think it'll turn out good."

Chiappialle attended Penn State's "Run-On Day" two weeks ago, but he's never before attended a game inside Beaver Stadium. He's thought a lot about what that crowd's like -- and he'll find out soon enough -- but he didn't need to see a game to commit.

Between the knowledge he'd be playing inside a stadium that could hold his town's population 11 times over and the tradition of PSU's 126-year-old football team, Chiappialle said Penn State feels like the right place for him.

And, looking back on that final high school game, he's just grateful he's made it this far.

"Honestly, at that time, I probably thought I'd go Division II, maybe Robert Morris at D-IAA," he said. "But I never thought in a million years, I never thought PSU would be looking at me.

"I'm just excited. It was just a no-brainer, and I really want to help them win football games and help turn around Penn State football."