Just a handful of months ago, Koa Farmer would have never dreamed that he would end up signing a letter of intent to play his college football at Penn State.
After becoming the first player to join California's Class of 2014 - he committed to the Golden Bears in October 2012 - the safety prospect from Notre Dame High in Sherman Oaks, Calif., seemed destined to play his college ball on the West Coast.
Even when the school fired head coach Jeff Tedford after a 3-9 finish in 2012, Farmer stuck with the Bears. He didn't begin looking around until Cal went 1-11 last season under first-year coach Sonny Dykes. Even then, few recruiting analysts thought he would leave the Pac-12 region.
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"I'll never forget the first time I talked to Coach Franklin," Farmer said. "I couldn't tell you exactly what we talked about, but his energy [made a big impression]. I'll never forget how upbeat he was and how excited he was just to offer me a scholarship. He was unlike any coach I ever spoke with. I don't know what it was, but instantly, he was just different, and something clicked."
After picking up an offer from the Commodores, Farmer was close to setting up an official visit. At the same time, however, he was receiving a lot of interest from new schools, so he held off on setting an actual date. That ended up boosting Penn State's chances, as Farmer was running out of official visits. In January, the Nittany Lions hired Franklin, and everything came together.
"When I saw that Coach Franklin made the move to Penn State, instantly, I just thought it was probably over when it came to me maybe playing for [him]," Farmer recalled. "I was bummed out, but I know how college football works. I understood."
What Farmer didn't know was that the Nittany Lions had an even bigger need for someone of his ability than Vanderbilt did. At 6-foot-1, 205 pounds, Farmer will most likely play strong safety for the Nittany Lions, but he has the frame to also play outside linebacker - both of which are positions of need at Penn State. That's why Franklin and his staff contacted Farmer during their first few days on the job.
"When Coach Rahne contacted my coach to let me know that I still had an offer from them, only now at Penn State, that was big," Farmer said. "I always knew Penn State was a big program, an even bigger program than Vanderbilt, so I kind of became even more interested in them then."
Within a week, Farmer was on a flight to State College. For Penn State, it wasn't the best time to be hosting a prospect from Southern California. The infamous polar vortex was just beginning to settle in over the Northeast, bringing record-low temperatures to the region.
"It was nine degrees when I got to Penn State," Farmer said. "It was the first time I ever saw snow falling from the sky, too, so when I got off the plane, I was already kind of thinking, 'Man, what did I get myself into?'"
But like every Division I prospect who's serious about his future, Farmer kept an open mind. He came away impressed with everything he saw, and by the time he left, he was already getting ready to cancel an official visit to Wisconsin the following weekend.
Eager to play for Franklin and his staff, Farmer is now set to attend a school about which he knew virtually nothing only a few months ago. And now that the recruiting process is over, he can't wait to get his college career started.
"When I really think about it, I'm just so happy with the way everything worked out," he said. "I never would have even looked at Penn State if Franklin hadn't made the move there, so I'm just so grateful that I was able to see everything. I did my homework. I saw a bunch of different schools.
"The whole combination at those schools didn't even come close to Penn State. I'm so happy with the way things worked out."