Brandon Bell (Mays Landing, N.J./Oakcrest) said Penn State was always in the back of his mind during his recruitment.
When the Nittany Lions finally offered him in June, he needed just a few weeks before voicing his commitment. And when the sanctions came down, he needed less than two weeks to re-affirm his loyalty.
NittanyNation recently caught up with the three-star linebacker to discuss why PSU was the right school for him and what he's looking forward to most.
NittanyNation: What sticks out to you the most when it comes to Penn State and what really separated PSU from some other schools?
Brandon Bell: I guess the companionship and the pride of the fans and community. Even before I knew much about Penn State, I knew that the fan base and that community was crazy with the die-hard finds. I kind of liked that a lot.
I mean, my first game was the home opener this season against Ohio, and that was one of the best games I've ever been to -- and people are saying that's not even half as loud as the stadium gets. ... The whole community still gets up early and gets there before the players get there. Everybody's there at like 8 a.m. waiting for the buses.
NN: What has been one of your favorite interactions with the fans?
BB: It's kind of funny, actually. It was my second or third visit up there just for a regular practice for the summer. We went on campus just to get some pizza, and this one family just kept looking at us, but they didn't say anything. So my dad said they came back because they recognized me and the guy's little daughter, maybe 5 years old, wanted an [autograph]. They knew I was a recruit, but they didn't actually look me up until they left and then they tried to catch me back. My dad actually got the man's number, so maybe I can see them next time we're all up.
It hasn't been too crazy on Twitter. But every now and then, I'll just get a can't-wait-to-see-you-here and stuff like that. That's definitely a warm feeling. I have a bunch of Penn State followers, which is pretty cool.
NN: I know you love the fans. But when the sanctions came out, I'm sure fans weren't the reason you stayed -- why did you stay?
BB: I think definitely that the goals I set to accomplish before the sanctions came out were still available. I wanted to definitely be a starting linebacker for a Division I school and Penn State being Linebacker U, it kind of benefits that. I also wanted to get a good degree, a respectable degree, and that was definitely important.
I mean, bowl games are obviously on the top of most kids' lists. That's definitely a cool aspect of college football, but I still think Penn State's a different caliber some of those other teams [that offered].
NN: What coach are you closest with right now?
BB: I think definitely [Ron] Vanderlinden, him being my recruiter -- and O'Brien, I definitely speak with him a lot, too. We try to get in touch with each other once a week, and we pretty much just talk about what's going on and how the week's going and how they're looking. So basically just what's going on.
NN: You were never really a college football fan growing up. But what's it like to watch a Penn State game with you now?
BB: Oh yeah, it's definitely different now. I get mad. I've been a fan for a long time of football, so I'm yelling at the TV and stuff like that. I'm always trying to keep up with the games on Saturday. If I have a game myself, I check in and get some updates to see what's going on.
Right after the game or when I'm on the bus, I'll check Twitter or something to see what's going on.
NN: How would you describe yourself as a linebacker? And where do you think you've improved most from last season to this?
BB: I think I'm definitely a smart, dissecting linebacker. When it comes to reading the play, I think that's what I'm best at, and I think I'm physical enough to make any play. I think I've improved most -- I think definitely being strong and being faster to the point of attack, when it's an open-field tackle or not.