By Tommy Keeler - firstname.lastname@example.org
Derek Dowrey could have taken the easy way out.
The Handley senior could easily have kicked Penn State while it was down. After the events of the last few weeks, few would have blamed him if he decided to decommit to Penn State and looked for another college to play football next year.
Dowrey has decided to do the opposite, to stay with the program he verbally committed to on June 25 and for all the right reasons.
"I definitely had to weigh my options," Dowrey said. "But, when I sat to think about it I still wanted to go to Penn State because I think it's still a great program. They still have great facilities, great academics and great fan support."
It was just a little less than two weeks ago when the news broke that former Penn State assistant coach Jerry Sandusky was arrested and charged with 40 counts of sexual abuse of young boys over a 15-year period.
Then last week, Joe Paterno was fired as head coach. With each day there seems to be more news coming out about the case. Dowrey said he was "shocked" when he first heard the news about Sandusky. Dowrey said he isn't following the stories too closely, but tries to keep up with the main developments.
Making a decision about where to go to college is a big one for any high school student, not just an athlete. However, when you throw in all of the mess that the Sandusky case has brought on, it makes things even more complicated.
Dowrey certainly had other options. He had scholarship offers from West Virginia University, East Carolina University, Ohio University and Marshall University among others.
Things became a little clearer for Dowrey after he went to Penn State last weekend for the Nebraska game and he had a chance to talk with the current coaching staff.
The 6-foot-3, 300-pound lineman said that he talked with interim coach Tom Bradley, head recruiter for this area and offensive tackle and tight ends coach Bill Kenney, and defensive line coach Larry Johnson and he felt positive about things after talking with them.
"They assured me that even if it's a new coaching staff there next year, they will continue with the tradition and there won't be a dropoff," Dowrey said. "That made me feel pretty good."
Dowrey said he wants the current staff to stay there.
"They're the ones that recruited me and I like them," Dowrey said. "But I know that's out of my control."
Dowrey said taking in the atmosphere of the game also gave him a positive vibe about the future of the program. He said it was very intense, but that's how most games there are. The thing that impressed him the most was that the fans were still there to cheer on the Nittany Lions -- it wasn't just about all things that had happened recently, but about rooting for the program they love.
Another thing that has helped is how close Dowrey and his future classmates have been. Dowrey said he stays in touch with most of the other 2012 recruits. Joey O'Connor, of Windsor Colo., has decommitted, but so far he is the only one of Penn State's 16 recruits that has.
"We all have to do what's best for ourselves," Dowrey said. "I feel like we were getting closer, and I feel like this is really going to bring us together even more."
Only time will tell how many recruits stick with Penn State, but if most of them do it will show just how strong the program is.
Dowrey and his classmates have the opportunity to show the college football world that Penn State is still the program it has been for decades, a program that won two national championships and played in 37 bowl games under Paterno. The strong tradition he built is still there. One player or coach doesn't make a program. That's something that's built up over time through the hard work of many people. And it will only continue through hard work and dedication of the future coaches and players.
I have no doubt that whatever is decided about the coaching situation for next year, Penn State will get a top coach to come in and keep the tradition going. The new coach will certainly have a lot to do with keeping the program a success, but it's players like Dowrey who will have the biggest impact on keeping the tradition alive.
Players, like Dowrey, who make their decisions for all the right reasons.