Having lived his entire life in Tampa, Fla., Amani Oruwariye said this spring how eager he was to make the move north. Really?
Giving up that balmy Florida climate for the unpredictable forecasts of central Pennsylvania - it's not a path often embraced. Oruwariye, however, is ready for something new.
"The cold is not a big deal to me," he said. "A lot of people would think, 'A Florida kid, why would he want to go up there? He doesn't want to play in the cold.' But I see it as a different experience. Instead of living at the same spot that I've been in for 18 years, it'll be a whole new experience for me."
Oruwariye - it's pronounced Oh-roo-war-ee-yay - first visited Penn State on Jan. 24, in the dead of winter. So when he says he can handle frigid Northern weather, he's already seen the worst of it.
He had been committed to Vanderbilt since October, but when James Franklin and his staff headed to Penn State, they offered Oruwariye an opportunity to join them at their new stop. He didn't immediately switch allegiances, but he was willing to visit University Park and have a look around.
"Vanderbilt was still Vanderbilt. It was still the good school that it was," he said. "But the process of getting to know a whole new coaching staff would be difficult again. I was comfortable with this coaching staff that I was with at Vanderbilt, and then they left to go to Penn State. So I took an official visit there to see how it is. When I got there, there was no question about it."
He described that visit as a "business trip" aimed at determining whether Penn State was the kind of school he could envision himself attending. He signed his letter of intent a few weeks later, but when he made a return trip for the Blue-White Game April 12 - with nicer weather to welcome him - he was reassured that he was ready to move north.
He flew into Pittsburgh International Airport, where future teammate Troy Apke picked him up. Oruwariye stayed with the Apkes that Friday night, and on Saturday morning they took the scenic journey up to State College.
"It was a pretty cool [drive] with all the mountains and everything around," Oruwariye said. "I've seen that when I've watched some movies and TV shows, but I've never seen anything like it [in person]."
Once they arrived at Beaver Stadium, Oruwariye finally was able to witness Penn State's game day atmosphere, albeit during a spring scrimmage. "It was unbelievable," he said. "It was fun."
At 6-foot-1, 185 pounds, Oruwariye is hoping he'll be contributing for the Nittany Lions the next time they step onto that field. Early high school scouting reports suggest Penn State is getting a cornerback prospect who could be ready to see action as a true freshman.
"Oruwariye has terrific length, allowing him to get his hands on balls across the middle, even if they're not thrown to his man," Rivals.com's Woody Womack wrote after the IMG 7-on-7 National Championship in Bradenton, Fla., last summer. "He stretched out to make a key interception over the middle, seemingly coming out of nowhere to snag a ball that was over his head."
One of his goals is to earn early playing time, and since Franklin has said multiple times that incoming defensive back prospects must be ready to play on special teams, it's almost a certainty that Oruwariye will see the field.
He hopes to parlay that opportunity into a successful career with the Nittany Lions, one that could eventually lead him into the NFL. Getting drafted is his ultimate goal, he said, but also, since he'll be so far from home, he wants to represent the Tampa area.
In turn, he hopes that his commitment could play a role in prompting other Florida prospects to leave the Sunbelt and choose colder locales like central Pennsylvania.
"In Florida we've got the best athletes in high school, so starting that pipeline I guess is big," he said. "I can kinda help recruit guys from down here and maybe open up some doors to them and spread the word about how good it is. Then they'll really see that they don't have to stay in Florida. They can explore their options like I did."