Chris Geiss remembers milling around the Nittany Lion Inn back when he was in grade school, standing near his parents' side when a familiar face in Coke-bottled frames strolled past.
He wasn't yet old enough to watch a PG-13 movie, but he instantly knew who that man was. Joe Paterno. He extended his little arm, while Paterno smiled and told the fresh-faced youngster something that stuck with him all these years later: "He said one day I'll be playing football up there," Geiss remembered.
On Monday, Geiss finally realized his dream -- and discovered Paterno was right all those years ago -- when he accepted a preferred walk-on offer to play at Penn State.
"It's a dream. It's awesome," said the athlete out of Malvern (Pa.) Great Valley. "I can't even describe the feeling. I just broke down in tears after Coach [Ron] Vanderlinden called me to tell me I had that offer. I accepted right away. I just hugged my coach and said thank you."
Geiss' parents are PSU alumni, and Chris wanted to follow in their footsteps almost as soon as he started taking steps as his own. He traveled to at least one Penn State game every year -- and even had his room painted Penn State blue.
A large Penn State flag is spread out near his desk, and a panoramic print of Beaver Stadium is hung near his bed. Geiss said he has Penn State action figures, Penn State clothes, Penn State stuffed animals and a small Nittany Lion statue. And that's just what he could think of off the top of his head.
"I was still talking to other schools like Syracuse, Boston College and William & Mary," he said. "But it was really easy to choose to go to Penn State. I had some financial help from Villanova, JMU and Shippensburg, but I really had my mind set on Penn State. I've been a die-hard fan since I was little."
Geiss played quarterback at Great Valley, but he's not quite sure where he'll line up for the Nittany Lions. He's being recruited as an athlete and believes he'll probably see time as a receiver. But, the 190-pound walk-on added that he doesn't care if they plug him in at defensive tackle or safety or kicker.
"This has been a dream of mine," Geiss said, pausing slightly, "and now it's coming true."