Keeping with tradition, our annual Freshman of Influence issue hits newsstands today and has been mailed out to all of our print subscribers.
If you're already a subscriber, check out your issue before it arrives in the mail by logging on to BlueWhiteOnline.com here!
Don't forget, Blue White Illustrated magazine subscribers can read an exact duplicate of the magazine they'll receive in the mail, only 24 hours after the magazine prints!
Added to our already well-received 'Friday Pregame Update', we're also pleased to present 'BWI Sunday' and 'Recruiting Central' this year - with expert game opinion and analysis every Sunday following the Nittany Lions' games as well as the latest recruiting news.
If you're not a subscriber, check out our issue preview below for a better look at our latest issue.
Here's a look at a story from the latest issue:
By Tim Owen
Blue White Illustrated contributor
A few years ago, Sharon Thomas was faced with a decision that no mother would ever want to make.
As a single mom working two jobs in Hempstead, N.Y., she was struggling to properly raise her growing teenage son, Donovan. Already 6 feet, 5 inches tall, Donovan Smith was eating more food than Thomas could keep on the table. All the while, he was developing into a promising young football player, a player who might eventually prove worthy of scholarship offers. That meant he would have to attend camps and combines in order to earn recognition from the coaches of major-college programs. The demands eventually became too much for his hard-working mother to manage.
Looking for the best possible alternative, Thomas sent her son and his twin sister, Ebony, to live with her brother in Maryland. It was a terribly difficult choice to have to make. Said Thomas, "I didn't want them to go. [But] I had been working two jobs, and there just wouldn't have been anyone there to oversee him the way it should have been."
So Smith moved to the Baltimore suburbs the summer after his freshman year of high school. As was the case with his mother, he needed some time to acclimate to his new reality.
"It was kind of an adjustment going from New York life to Maryland life," he explained. "It was actually hard getting used to not hearing any noise at night."
But it didn't take long to adjust to Maryland's style of football. By the beginning of his sophomore season, he had earned a starting position at Owings Mills High. Coach Steve Lurz was happy to welcome the young lineman to the squad.
"It was pretty exciting to get a guy with that size," Lurz said. "And then we saw him on the field. Donovan just happens to be a kid who has the size and the athleticism."
Even more grateful to have Smith in his life was Thomas' brother. George Smith was more than willing to provide a home and to be a role model for his nephew. Said George, "He's been like a son I've never had."
Whether it meant carting him from camp to camp during the summers or devoting endless hours to the task of molding him into a man - a very large man, at that - George, who has no sons of his own, was eager to step into a fatherly role.
Without his unwavering support, there's a chance Donovan wouldn't be where he is today.
That's especially true of his football experience. It quickly became apparent to George Smith that his nephew's placid temperament was at odds with his desire to play football on an elite level.
"When I saw him play for the first time, he just didn't have the aggression in him," George explained. "He was a gentle giant. You almost had to insult him for him to really get going."
Instead of hurling insults, though, George presented his nephew with a piece of advice: "Be in a controlled rage for 60 minutes."
Smith took that instruction. Eventually, he evolved into a four-star prospect and a player whom Lurz recently described as a "major disruption" on the football field.
By his junior season, Smith was starting on both the offensive and defensive lines, and he led the team in tackles, tackles for loss and sacks during his final two years. He developed into the second-ranked prospect in Maryland while also gaining consensus All-State and U.S. Army All-America honors.
Through it all, Smith has remained humble, his uncle said. But, George Smith added, "now he'll go out there and tear somebody's head off."
Penn State's coaches acknowledged his transformation into a tenacious player by offering him a scholarship - one of about 20 he received from Football Championship Subdivision schools. Smith, who now stands 6-6, 300 pounds, is expected to play on the offensive line for the Nittany Lions.
But more than just an affirmation of his improvement, Penn State's scholarship offer was proof that the sacrifices Thomas made years ago were worthwhile.
"It definitely is a decision that I am glad I made right now," she said.
Here's a closer look at the latest issue!
Now, let's take a look at what else is in this issue!
Blue White Illustrated publisher Phil Grosz breaks down Pennsylvania's breadth of talent coming out of the class of 2012. Will it pay dividends for the Nittany Lions?
As Grosz explains, the depth coming out of the Keystone State could hand the Lions a top-10 nationally-rated class.
BWI recruiting analyst Ryan Snyder has all of the latest news and notes on the recruiting trail for our print subscribers, including a look at the latest Nittany Lion, Brian Gaia.
Additionally, Snyder and Tim Owen give our subscribers an introduction to two more of the newest Nittany Lions - Donovan Smith and Shyquawn Pulliam - in the final installment of our 'Up Close and Personal' series.
To Protect and Serve
Blue White Illustrated magazine editor Matt Herb tells the story of offensive tackles Chima Okoli and Quinn Barham, who are both hoping to help the Nittany Lions' quarterbacks stay on their feet this season.
In with the new
Blue White Illustrated put the full-court press on the latest impact freshmen to sign their names to letters of intent at Penn State, including in-depth looks at the latest class to join Ed DeChellis and the Nittany Lions' men's basketball team, the latest haul for Coquese Washington, as well as the newest class of freshmen wrestlers for Cael Sanderson, plus men's and women's volleyball and a selection of other Olympic sports.
You won't want to miss this special section of features. Get to know the names you'll be seeing and hearing from over the next four years, now!
Blue White Illustrated contributor Eric Thomas digs into the resurgence of Johnnie Troutman, Nate Bauer and Phil Grosz sit down with defensive coordinator Tom Bradley for an exclusive one-on-one interview coming out of spring practice, and Bauer investigates just how good the Nittany Lions' next set of feature linebackers will be in our special section of post-spring practice football coverage.
The early rounds
Frequent BWI contributor and Penn State sports historian Lou Prato goes in-depth on the Nittany Lions' original NFL Draft picks in this very special feature story!
... Plus, check out the our Varsity Views Olympic sports roundup and the always-popular, 'Tail End' column!
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