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Monday, February 25, 2013
DT Holley excited about PSU visit, offer

By Josh Moyer

Defensive tackle Thomas Holley fell asleep 1 a.m. Saturday, woke up at 3 a.m. and then hopped in his car for a four-hour drive to Penn State. He skipped the coffee; his adrenaline was already pumping.

And, after a long day where he picked up a PSU offer, the junior out of Brooklyn (N.Y.) Abraham Lincoln said he couldn't have been happier with his sleepless day.

"My excitement just kind of kept me awake," he said. "I enjoyed every minute of it. They can only give scholarships to a certain number of people now, and I'm one of those people."

Penn State coach Bill O'Brien said earlier this month his staff couldn't miss on players they offer scholarships to. With the sanctions, O'Brien and staff speak with teachers or someone similar to better vet some recruits. Holley knew PSU was interested -- and thought an offer might come -- because O'Brien and assistant Larry Johnson called several people close to him.

Besides Lincoln coach Shawn O'Connor, the staff also put in a call to the father of former Lincoln standout Ishaq Williams, a former PSU target who signed with Notre Dame's 2011 class. Holley said he takes a lot of pride in academics, and the staff told him they only heard good things from digging into his background.

"[O'Brien] was talking about how I'd be an asset to the school not only as a player but also a person because he sees me as one of those guys who'll put the work in the weight room, and he said my character is a big asset," Holley said. "I was just very thankful."

Holley said he's a relaxed person, so he took the offer in stride. He called it an honor, but he said he wasn't ready to commit anywhere. He received his first offer earlier this month from UMass before his recruitment exploded.

A week later, several other schools such as Boston College, Florida State and UConn were added to his offer sheet. He visited Rutgers recently, so PSU was just his second college visit. He plans to tour a few other schools before even thinking about forming a top five or top 10.

Still, PSU's in good shape.

"It definitely seems like a good program that I could see myself going to, but my options are still open," Holley said. "I like it there because they don't just focus on sports. They focus on academics and take that very seriously, and you have to be able to take that education to get somewhere in life. They also have a good coaching staff; they want to build a relationship with you outside of football.

"The environment is nice, the campus is nice, and it's just a place I could see myself at."

The 6-foot-4, 285-pound prospect said he really hit it off with Johnson. He spoke to the DL coach one-on-one at several points during the day, and he was in O'Brien's office for about 30 minutes.

He said he felt comfortable with the staff and tried to keep a business-like approach throughout Saturday. But he said there was one part of the day where that approach was especially difficult -- a personal trip inside Beaver Stadium.

"I have to say, I was a little dumbfounded on that," he said with a laugh. "You see schools like this on TV, and you see all the fans and you can visualize it. But TV's not like this; it's not like you're physically there. When I stepped out of the tunnel, I was just like, 'Whoa. This is huge.'

"It looked like, once it's filled up, the atmosphere has to be ridiculous."