The weekend started off right for Penn State fans, as Chesapeake (Va.) Oscar Smith defensive tackle Evan Hailes became the first of two commitments late Friday evening.
The four-star prospect is rated as the No. 13 defensive tackle nationally, and the No. 202 player overall in the country. He is a two-time all-state and all-Tidewater selection at defensive tackle, and led Oscar Smith to a Group AAA Division 6 state title last season.
He finished the year with 81 tackles, 20 of which were behind the line of scrimmage, and 11 sacks.
He became the Nittany Lions' ninth verbal commitment on Friday, the day before defensive tackle DaQuan Jones became No. 10. He is the first prospect from Virginia in the Class of 2010, and the first player since Chima Okoli to commit to the Nittany Lions from the Tidewater Region.
BWI caught up with the four-star rising senior this weekend, see what he had to say in another installment of our popular series, Q&A with the Nittany Lions' Newest Commitment.
BlueWhiteIllustrated.com: First off, can you tell us about your decision, how did it happen, when did it happen and who did you commit to?
Evan Hailes: Friday night I made it at the stadium. They were doing a camp, and as part of the camp they show a video of how it goes up there. So in the middle of the thing, I'm lovin' it, I'm lovin' how everything is going, and I saw the commitments were there taking pictures. So you know how like you get together and say "1-2-3 Cheese?" I said we're going to say "We commit." Coach Johnson just looked dumbstruck for a minute, just standing there smiling, and then he got what I said, and got all happy and everything like that. So that's when I committed right there.
BWI: What kind of things did he say to you after you committed?
Evan Hailes: He just said that now that I made a commitment, they're going to make a commitment to me. There's no way that they're going to take that scholarship back, it's mine. I can count on them just as much as they count on me, and I have a promising future here just as long as I work hard.
BWI: Did you get a chance to talk to Coach Paterno about your commitment?
Evan Hailes: Yeah. He said he's real glad that he helped somebody be a part of the school, and he just emphasized how now that I made a commitment to them, they're going to make a commitment to me.
BWI: You had a ton of scholarship offers, so the obvious question, why Penn State?
Evan Hailes: Like you said, I had a ton of options because my grades and SAT scores were so high, and I think that was a reason as to why I had so many offers. I always thought about Penn State, and they were the only school for me that emphasized academics as well as football. When I got up there, everything was how they said it would be. It felt like home, it felt real. It felt like a big family up here, and it just felt like the right decision.
BWI: Can you tell us a little bit about the visit, what did you do, what kind of people did you interact with, etc.?
Evan Hailes: I interacted with a bunch of football players who played before, but they're still associated with the school. I met with a lot of those kind of players. I met with a lot of players who had an injury, and most of them said that they liked the program so much that now they're assistant coaches. I chilled with the coaches a lot on campus, basically they came in, gave me the tour, showed me how everything goes.
BWI: Did you have a host?
Evan Hailes: Yeah, he actually came from my area, at Lake Taylor, Terrell Golden.
BWI: Penn State had its senior camp while you were up (Hailes did not participate), did you get a chance to talk to some other prospects, and is recruiting other guys something that you do?
Evan Hailes: Travis Williams from Lake Taylor, I've got to work on him a little harder. Sharrif Floyd, he's from Pennsylvania, I'm going to work on him as well.
BWI: Some have you compared you to former Penn State defensive tackle Anthony Adams, did you get a chance to meet with him?
Evan Hailes: We talked, he told me about what kind of a guy Coach Johnson is, and how he helped him get to where he is right now. He said that I have more skill than what he did when he first came in. I heard that from a couple of guys, but hearing it from someone in the NFL, it made me feel good about my playing style.
BWI: Penn State came into the picture late, how much ground did they have to make up, and why consider them when they did?
Evan Hailes: Coach Johnson. Anyone who meets him knows that he demands attention. You have to look at him when he talks, you have to listen to what he's saying. Just him as a person, and then when I got to know more about Penn State, I felt kind of a connection with me, him and Coach Kenney.
BWI: You mentioned last week that you loved the fans, can you tell us how much that drew you in?
Evan Hailes: They told me how the fans pack around when you get off of the buses before the game, and how they've got a student section that fills up 21,000 seats. That's not the average school right there. That kind of jumped out at me.
BWI: What did your decision come down to, and what put Penn State over the top?
Evan Hailes: Just how solid they were, with how the people are with their values. How Penn State's tradition has been followed throughout the years. That makes you feel comfortable, especially me, coming from my type of family values, how we kept tradition going over the years. I'm coming to a bigger family.
BWI: Did Coach Johnson talk to you about how they're going to use you at Penn State?
Evan Hailes: He said I would be a one-technique, but anytime he wanted to create a mismatch, he would slide me out to a three-technique. So basically both, but I would start the game as a one-technique.
BWI: You made your commitment on Friday, so I'm not sure if it has sunk in yet, but how does it feel to be a Nittany Lion?
Evan Hailes: It feels relaxed now that I don't have everybody else on my back about coming to their school. I feel comfortable about this type of school and with my decision. I don't think I would have made it if I didn't know what I was getting into, so I feel comfortable with it.