Sherando LB Rivers verbally commits to Penn State

Sherando junior linebacker Dylan Rivers verbally committed to play football at Penn State in November. The junior had 14 Division I offers. Rich Cooley/Daily file

STEPHENS CITY – Dylan Rivers’ first visit to Penn State left a lasting impression on the Sherando High School junior linebacker.

It was October of last year, and the Nittany Lions’ football team hosted Big Ten rival and future NCAA Division I Football Bowl Subdivision champion Ohio State. Rivers, a budding college football prospect, left Beaver Stadium in awe of the game’s atmosphere and the way Penn State competed against the Buckeyes in an eventual double-overtime loss.

From there, Rivers said, the relationship between he and the Nittany Lions’ coaching staff grew, to the point where Penn State offered him a scholarship, one of 14 Division I FBS offers Rivers accrued over the last year.

This past Saturday morning, Rivers made his verbal commitment to play football at Penn State in 2017.

“I was glad to finally get it off my shoulders,” Rivers said Monday afternoon. “I’ve been under a lot of stress with whole recruiting process so I was glad to finally decide and commit to Penn State.”

Rivers’ commitment came right on the heels of Sherando’s season-ending loss to Woodgrove in the second round of the Virginia High School League Group 4A playoffs last Friday night. Rivers visited Penn State for the fifth time Saturday and said he informed Nittany Lions head coach James Franklin of his decision about 90 minutes prior to the noon kickoff of PSU’s game against Michigan.

Rivers said he decided on Penn State after his visit to Happy Valley on Sept. 26 to see the Nittany Lions play visiting San Diego State.

“I really didn’t know when I was gonna commit,” said Rivers, who can’t sign his national letter of intent until February 2017. “I thought it was gonna be before the season next year but after the San Diego State game there was no reason to keep going on when I knew where exactly I wanted to go.”

Rivers said his list had previously been narrowed down to four schools, with Virginia Tech, Clemson and Pittsburgh joining Penn State at the top. Rivers said Virginia Tech was “off the list” when longtime head coach Frank Beamer announced his impending retirement on Nov. 1.

Rivers, who was primarily recruited by Nittany Lions linebackers coach Brent Pry, said he ultimately decided on Penn State due to the game atmosphere and the commitment shown from the Nittany Lions coaching staff.

“What stood out? The atmosphere. That was really great,” Rivers said. “And then what the coaches bring to the table and their love and passion, and they always told me I was their number one linebacker for our class. That really stuck in my head.”

Listed at 6-foot-3, 225-pounds on Sherando’s roster, Rivers is considered a four-star recruit by ESPN, Scout.com and 247sports.com and a three-star recruit by Rivals.

ESPN lists Rivers as the seventh-best prospect in Virginia and the 13th-best outside linebacker in the country for the 2017 class, naming him No. 216 in its list of top 300 college prospects for 2017. Scout.com lists Rivers as the 14th-best outside linebacker in the nation for the 2017 class and No. 191 on its top 300.

Both ESPN and Scout list Rivers as the top outside linebacker prospect in the state for 2017.

In 10 regular-season games during his junior season this past fall, Rivers recorded 36 tackles (11 solo), 15 tackles for loss, three interceptions, three fumble recoveries, a forced fumble and five pass breakups. He also scored nine touchdowns rushing on offense for Sherando and hauled in 22 catches for 536 yards and five touchdowns as a tight end for the Warriors.

Sherando head coach Bill Hall said Rivers’ mental and physical abilities coupled with his aggressive play-style is what “makes him so special,” adding that Rivers’ true impact on the football field can’t be accurately measured in stats alone.

“Sometimes he doesn’t have all the statistical numbers that all our other kids have … (but) that’s not his role within our team. What Dylan does is he cuts the field in half,” Hall said.

“That doesn’t’ show up in the stat sheet, nor does a lot of things that he does,” he added. “I mean, Dylan’s measurables can’t be measured by numbers. I think if you come to a ballgame he stands out, but he’s special just from a standpoint of one of the ways you kind of always know a scholarship kid is when you have to gameplan for them. You have to gameplan for him offensively and defensively, and I think that’s a credit to him.”

Hall, who praised Rivers’ handling of the entire recruitment process, said he thinks the junior linebacker is a good fit for the culture at Penn State.

“I think one of the things they like about Dylan is the fact that he comes from a program that has a solid tradition but also comes from a family atmosphere, and that’s what they’re building up there,” Hall said. “So it’s a very similar transition. When we were coming back (Saturday, Pry) called us because we didn’t see him after the ballgame and … I said, (Rivers is) coming from our family to your family,’ and he said, ‘You know, we’re just one big, happy family now.’ So I think that says a lot about what they’re trying to build there and the way they’re trying to build it.”

Contact staff writer Brad Fauber at 540-465-5137 ext. 161, or bfauber@nvdaily.com