Penn State has long been known for producing NFL-caliber running backs, but lately many of the team's biggest recruiting successes have involved wide receivers.
That's especially true of the Nittany Lions' most recent recruiting class. De'Andre Thompkins, Saeed Blacknall, Troy Apke and Chris Godwin comprise the best group of wide receivers Penn State has landed since Rivals.com started ranking prospects in 2002. Averaging out the rankings from various sites, Godwin is the highest-rated receiver ever to sign for the Nittany Lions - a fact that left the 6-foot-2, 205-pound prospect from Middletown, Del., stunned when he was informed of it.
"That's an incredible honor," he said. "Penn State has had some great players. I'm definitely proud to know people think so highly of me, but I know that means nothing unless I put in the work."
Hard work is something Godwin knows all about. He earned a starting spot as a freshman on Middletown High's varsity squad, and he's been excelling ever since. That's impressive considering that the Cavaliers have consistently been one of Delaware's top programs. In fact, he played in the state championship game all four years of his career, with Middletown winning the title in 2011 and '12.
While Delaware isn't necessarily known for developing elite Division I talent year in and year out, Godwin proved himself on the camp circuit as well. He earned top-performer honors at not only the Rivals.com/Under Armour Camp in New Jersey, but also at the Under Armour All-American Game this past January. The game features the best prospects in the entire nation.
"Godwin was one of the most consistent wide receivers in every combine I covered last year," said Adam Friedman, a national recruiting analyst for Rivals.com. "He has some of the softest hands out there. He isn't the fastest guy, but he makes up for that in his route-running.
"Only a couple of the best cornerbacks in the nation were able to keep up with him when he makes a cut, and even then, he usually came down with the ball. Penn State is getting a really good player in Godwin."
Following Bill O'Brien's departure, Godwin became one of the hottest prospects in the nation. While he admittedly listened to a few schools, he remained committed to Penn State, confident that whoever the new coach turned out to be, the Nittany Lions would be in good hands.
"My heart was definitely set on Penn State," he said. "It's the whole picture, really. I was really close with Coach O'Brien and his coaches, but when you really look at everything, Penn State is absolutely the best program in our area. The fans are incredible, the campus is great, the facilities are some of the best in the nation, and I always wanted to stay close enough that my parents would be able to come see me play.
"Looking back, I know some people thought I was going to look around, maybe visit some schools, but it was never really something I seriously considered. I knew Penn State would get the right coach."
Once James Franklin and his staff took over, Godwin was one of the first verbally committed prospects to receive a phone call. Multiple coaches then visited with him, even after he reaffirmed his commitment, signaling that Godwin had a very bright future.
Now, with guys like Allen Robinson and Derek Moye to live up to, Godwin is excited for the challenge. Yet he's humble enough to understand the opportunity he's been given.
"I'm grateful for the way everything worked out, grateful that I'm going to be given the opportunity to lead Penn State into the next era," he said. "My future teammates are real genuine guys, they feel exactly the way I do.
"I know that when we all get the opportunity to wear the blue and white and represent everything that Penn State stands for, we can be the team that takes Penn State back to where the program should be. There's a lot of hard work to go before we get there, but everything is in place. It's going to be a really fun time to play for Penn State."