* Breaking News
If local news is breaking and you know about it:
* Call Us: 800-296-5137
* E-mail Us
* Upload Your Photos
By Tommy Keeler Jr. - firstname.lastname@example.org
WINCHESTER -- Last summer, Handley's Derek Dowrey went to a camp at Penn State and fell in love with the school and its campus.
On Saturday, Dowrey once again attended a camp at Penn State, and this time he made a verbal commitment to play football for the Nittany Lions in the fall of 2012.
Dowrey said they offered him the scholarship right after the two-day camp was over and he accepted immediately. Dowrey said it's slowly starting to sink in that he will be playing at Penn State.
"It's been 24 hours and it's still kind of surprising that it happened," Dowrey said. "I had other offers, but that was the only one that I would have committed to right away."
Dowrey also attended two football games at Penn State last fall and said he knew it was where he wanted to be.
Dowrey said it helped that he really liked Penn State defensive coordinator Larry Johnson. It was Johnson who officially offered the scholarship to Dowrey.
"I think it's really important that you have coaches that you get along with," Dowrey said. "He's the one I will probably see the most of everybody on the staff."
Dowrey, the two-time Northern Virginia Daily Defensive Player of the Year, had 145 tackles last year. He had 10.5 sacks as he helped lead the Judges to the Group AA, Division 3 state semifinals for the second year in a row.
The outstanding season he had on the field led to Dowrey being named to the Associated Press All-state Group AA football team as a first-team selection.
The 6-foot-2, almost 300-pound lineman plays on the offensive and defensive lines for Handley, but it is on the defensive side where Dowrey has garnered the most attention.
Dowrey said he also received scholarship offers from West Virginia University, East Carolina University, Ohio University, Marshall University and the University of Richmond.
"I had been evaluating the other schools, but I always knew that Penn State took precedence over the other schools," Dowrey said.
In his sophomore season, Dowrey led the Judges with 128 tackles and led the area with eight sacks. The Judges went 12-1 that season.
After his sophomore year at Handley, Dowrey was named to the ESPN Rise Sophomore All-American team, joining a list of players that also included the son of NFL great Barry Sanders.
Last year the Judges lost their first three games, but rebounded to win a share of the Northwestern District title and capture the Region II, Division 3 title.
Dowrey said now that he has committed to Penn State he can spend the rest of his summer focusing on getting ready for what he hopes will be a stellar final season at Handley.
According to various newspapers and websites, Penn State also received a commitment from Austin Johnson, who attends St. Augustine Prep in Richland, N.J., at Saturday's camp. Penn State now has 10 commitments for the class of 2012.
The Nittany Lions went 7-6 last year, and lost to Florida, 37-24 in the Outback Bowl.
Penn State is coached by legendary coach Joe Paterno, who has the most wins in NCAA Football Bowl Subdivision history. The 84-year old has a record of 401-135-3 in 45 years as the head coach. Paterno has coached the Nittany Lions to 36 bowl games and two national championships.
Dowrey said that he attended the Penn State spring game, and afterward Paterno came over and talked to him and his family.
"I didn't know what to say," Dowrey said of the conversation. "What do you say to Coach Paterno when he comes over and talks to you? I just stood there and enjoyed it."
In 2012 and 2013 the Nittany Lions are scheduled to play the University of Virginia. That could give Dowrey the opportunity to play against a familiar face -- Sherando graduate Ross Metheny. The redshirt sophomore is currently in a battle for the starting quarterback spot for the Cavaliers.
Dowrey said he's excited to play for Penn State and for Paterno.
"It's just amazing," Dowrey said. "I think Penn State is a great fit, and I really wanted to go there. Then when you start thinking about the history of Penn State football it's just a bonus.
"Coach Paterno and his tradition and what he's done for college football -- it's just so much. I'm just honored to have a chance to play for him."