Sean Corcoran (Kankakee, Ill./Bishop McNamara) usually returned home from school last October, relaxed on his recliner and played some Assassin's Creed.
Sometimes, his mind wandered about what college he would apply to. Sometimes, he thought about different majors in medicine. But, as a 210-pound long-snapper, he never imagined he would play football at a Division I college.
And the 2013 prospect certainly never envisioned himself committing to Penn State as a preferred walk-on -- or being told he would compete for the starting job next season.
"Playing football was one of those things I never even thought was a possibility," Corcoran said. "I thought maybe I could help out with some equipment stuff or be an equipment manager. ... This is just unbelievable. It's really a dream come true."
Penn State recruiting coordinator Bill Kavanaugh spoke with Corcoran on a warm Wednesday morning last month, less than a year after Corcoran devoted his spare time to long-snapping. "You know, Sean," Corcoran remembered Kavanaugh saying. "You're the kind of kid we want. You have the character and the grades, and we think you can snap for us."
Corcoran didn't need much convincing. He committed as a preferred walk-on on the spot.
"I was so excited I told him, right there, that I would love to do it," he said. "There's no other place I wanted to go more than Penn State, so I knew right there I wanted to go to that school."
Corcoran's unlikely path to Happy Valley began forming in November 2011 when his father, a member of the Chicago Bears' medical staff, called in a favor at Stanford. Sean toured the campus there, and the coaches glanced at his film. It was Corcoran's first taste of the recruiting process.
The Cardinal soon began pursuing him as a long-snapper, and the 6-foot-2 prospect realized, "Hey, this could turn out to be something." He tossed aside that video game, at least for 30 to 60 minutes a day, and began fine-tuning his craft.
He set up a net in the backyard and moved it to the basement when it snowed. Six times a week in the offseason -- and four days a week during the football season -- he'd either walk outside or trudge downstairs, crouch forward and start spiraling footballs backward. Usually he'd toss back 40 or 50 pigskins.
Corcoran became motivated, convinced he could land on other schools' radars if he tried his hardest. He devoted his offseason to attending 14 football camps, practicing with multiple instructors and doing work on his own. Eventually, schools such as Air Force and Northwestern offered him walk-on positions without any help from his father.
But Penn State proved to be a harder staff to crack, so his father contacted the team's head trainer and his personal friend, Tim Bream, who passed along Corcoran's interest. The staff was impressed with his quickness and accuracy -- and soon began pursuing the recruit. It wasn't long before they offered a preferred walk-on spot, which Corcoran accepted.
The high school senior walked around the sidelines Saturday before the Northwestern game with a permanent smile fixed to his face. He stared at the student section, which was awash in white, and labeled his time there as an incredible experience.
Less than one year ago, Corcoran didn't think he had a future in football except as an equipment manager. On Saturday, he saw a glimpse of the crowds awaiting him.
"It was just surreal," he said. "To be on the sideline and think they could be cheering for me a year from now, it was just surreal to think I could be in the blue-and-white next year.
"It's all just unbelievable."