Penn State landed the highest-rated prospect of its Class of 2015 Tuesday night, when Rivals100 OT Sterling Jenkins verbally committed on KDKA-TV in Pittsburgh.
Once the craziness of his evening settled down, Blue White Illustrated's Tim Owen caught up with Jenkins for a one-on-one conversation about his recruitment, his recent visit to Penn State, his college future and much more.
Owen: It's been a long day, but it's been a long recruitment, too. You've had offers from all over the place, so tell us a little bit about what it's like to have this weight off your shoulders. What comes next for you now?
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Jenkins: I was talking to my dad and actually a year ago around this time I got my first offer. I just would never have thought back then then that I would commit in a year, just because I always thought I'd want to wait as a late as possible and make it dramatic as possible, most media attention and stuff. Then as I've been talking to my coach and family and stuff, I really wanted to make sure people knew about how good of a place I was going to. And so I could send my thanks to the people that had helped me. Being able to thank them for finalizing my decision is why I made it now. It makes me feel very confident in my decision.
For now, concerning Penn State, I'm still going to learn more about it. I'm going to go up there as much as I can, and help recruit some guys. But for me personally, I want to be able to -- I know there are a lot of doubters out there, concerning what I can do and how I play. So really what I want to do is be an All-Conference player this year and All-State. And I want to be able to show people that it's not just, OK, he's big and athletic. He can actually play football. He has the ability to play at the next level.
Owen: A year ago, if I remember correctly, Michigan was one of the schools at the top of your list. You know, Ohio State has always been there. But Penn State seemed to come on strong after James Franklin was hired. Brief your recruitment for us, if you can. How did it start and how did it kind of evolve from that to where we are today?
Jenkins: I've tried to give a selfless look with how I've dealt with things. I got all this craze from the Rivals camp [last June], even though I didn't do that well. It was my first showing. I try to be selfless about it, but then I started getting these offers. It was a shock to me. I didn't feel like I deserved it. More guys kept coming in and I kept talking to more coaches, and really Michigan was one of the first big schools. They were one of the first big schools I heard about giving me an offer. So I was really excited about that and what they had to offer and I wanted to go out there. Through the season I watched them.
But even before Penn State and Ohio State became two schools that I chose to finalize on, I feel like looking back, that one of the main moments that really started this whole Penn State thing was after the Penn State-Michigan game last year.
I was looking down in the Beaver Stadium [media room from the recruiting lounge after the game] and I saw all the fans and I saw Coach O'Brien talking to all the [reporters] and all the people all around who were talking about the program. It was just a really good environment and I was just really excited. It was at that point when Penn State became really big to me. Then it grew now because I've been going up there and talking without coaches a lot more and I'm really excited about what they have in store.
Owen: One of those coaches who we've talked about before and who I have heard you mention quite a bit is Coach Herb Hand. Tell us about that relationship. That's evolved a lot too, right?
Jenkins: Yea, he offered me at Vanderbilt. Even then I thought he was a good guy. I didn't really have interest in Vanderbilt, but I thought, OK this guy is nice, but I went about my business. But when he came to Penn State and he said the same message, that to me is a really rare thing and it shows me definitely about how honest he is about how he feels about me. Having that opportunity to being offered twice, in a different situation that they were in, it shows me that it's not just a recruiting spiel. It's really real and I can count on this guy through thick and thin.
Coach James Franklin -- I didn't know who he was whenever he got hired. My coach told me it was a big score for Penn State, so I was like, OK I wanna meet this guy. Like a week later he came to my school and I was like, Whoa. I was taken back because there had never been a head coach in my school before. I noticed how he recruited you. I got a nice taste of that the first time I met him and how aggressive, you could say, he is with his recruiting. I was really taken back by it. It was from there when I started doing more research and doing more homework and getting up there more and seeing what they have to offer. Those guys, I can really see what they want to do.
Owen: Going along with that, the relationships seem to be such a big thing. You've gotten to be pretty close with a lot of the commits, some of the guys who have already joined the Class of 2015. I saw you guys on the sidelines before the Blue-White Game in the big group, taking pictures and that type of stuff. Have those relationships helped with this decision at all?
Jenkins: You know, one of the things that I definitely needed from a school -- that wasn't one of them, to be honest. I knew that if I went somewhere, the football players would be my friends indefinitely. So the fact that I knew them before was really a bonus and I was really thankful to how open and friendly they were with me. Really it just added to what I was already looking for. I didn't think I have to go there because of those commits, or all the hype surrounding them. I just think it was a really good bonus for me.
Owen: That's one thing I remember talking about with you earlier in the process. You said you didn't want to make a decision amid the noise. How difficult did you find that to be throughout the process -- whether it was from fellow commits, reporters like me, fans. How difficult was it to block out some of the noise?
Jenkins: The same thing happened at Michigan. It was the same type of recruiting from the recruits. You know, I had a saying I think even before the Michigan game visit, if I had not planned to commit that day, then I was not going to.
So whenever people say you're going to commit or not -- I know how other guys have committed because I was there -- I just knew that wasn't what I wanted to do. I wanted to make sure my parents were on board, too, so I got my parents on board and I already knew I wanted to commit. So I told them that day.
Owen: You took the trip also with your grandma, your sister and your parents. What did they take from your trip?
Jenkins: Yea they're really happy. My sister doesn't go on many visits because she's three years old and my grandma doesn't go on many visits either, but I thought it'd be special.
Even before I knew I wanted to commit, I thought it'd be special to have my grandma go up there because her brother [Chappie Hill] played there and they both loved Penn State even before I was born. He passed away a while back, I think about 12 years ago, and she saw his name on the wall and she started tearing up. She got really emotional and that only added to how special it was to me.
Owen: So did you commit while you were there and then held off on the announcement until [Tuesday]? How did you leave it with Franklin when you left?
Jenkins: I told him that I wanted to make sure I saw him before I commit. I wanted to make sure that I had my family there and that Coach Franklin knew I was going to commit. So I told my family beforehand that I planned on committing to Penn State. And I told [Franklin] to try to keep it quiet before [the announcement]. I wanted to make sure I talked to him face-to-face about it. The next day, I officially announced it. That's how that went down.
Owen: Then obviously Brandon Wimbush followed you up an hour later. What were your thoughts there?
Jenkins: Really, I don't know where it came from. Out of no where he just said, "Hey DM me [on Twitter.]" I'm like, "What, OK?" Because he was following me. We talked about it and he told me what he's liking and I told him what I'm liking. A little bit after that I saw his highlight tape. Then he said, "Hey, bro. Call me." So I called him and he said, "Hey we have to do this together," and he was like, "I want to do this Tuesday. I don't know how, but I want to do it Tuesday." (laughs)
So I was like, "OK. I guess people would be pretty excited if that happens." So we both [committed]. I already knew who he was going to pick because he told me. We were complete strangers before that. He told me that and then we both did it.
Owen: Everyone obviously knows you as the recruit, the 6-foot-9 offensive lineman. Tell us a little bout about yourself. What do you do away from the football field, hobbies and things like that?
Jenkins: Back in the day until the fall, actually, I would always ride my bike. I've always loved riding my bike. I'd bike all over the town and stuff. I'd go to some pretty far places on my bike and just come back at the end of the day. It was still a way to escape for me, but being as big as I am, I broke it. A part snapped off so I haven't been doing that for the past few months. I think it was something on the pedal. Nothing was unscrewed or anything. Something snapped off.
I've rode from my house to the South Side before. That was a nice one. That's about a 30-minute drive. I like to go on trails and stuff with my family. We always go together, and I like to ride my bike up and down the street for hours. That's what I like doing.
Owen: I know you've had a long day and I've already held you longer than I wanted to, but I do have one last question. As we do with all of our Q&As, we give you one chance to tell fans something that maybe they should anticipate from you when you get to Penn State. Whether it's on the football field or away from the football field, what type of player or person are they getting in Sterling Jenkins?
Jenkins: Well, I feel like I'm a reserved kind of guy off the field. I don't typically talk too much about, "This is what I did or this is how I did it." People will tell me that, and I say thank you and stuff. I feel like I'm a Penn State type of a guy and that's what they've been telling me. Whenever I get there, their football program and offensive line is in good hands, I guess you can say. I feel like character-wise -- I'm not sure if I'll be good or not -- but I feel like character-wise that I won't embarrass the program, and wherever Penn State takes me, I will represent it well.