Marcus Allen (Upper Marlboro, Md./Wise) stood off to the side in Holuba Hall, his eyes focused on the action in front of him, while Penn State players darted from side to side on the first day of spring practice.
His teammate, cornerback Joe Shelton, sat on a bench while Allen -- a 2014 safety -- chatted with departing defensive tackle Jordan Hill, a projected second- or third-round draft pick. On a chilly Monday, beneath a gray beanie and a jacket zipped up to his chin, Allen just smiled.
"That was my favorite part, the practice, to be honest," he said Tuesday evening. "It was just the intensity there, especially the one-on-ones. The competition level was just very high. I liked it there a lot."
The pair of defensive backs arrived on campus around 9 a.m. and didn't leave until 8:30 p.m. It was Shelton's first unofficial visit to a college, and it was Allen's second visit to Happy Valley -- and his first was incredibly brief.
The 6-foot-2 safety trains at the gym where cornerback Stephon Morris' father, Roman, works. So he heard plenty about PSU from him -- and from early enrollee Jordan Smith, who also competed there. But Allen said his previous interest mainly derived from second-hand information. He didn't know much about the Nittany Lions, so he said before his visit that the trip there would be critical in forming an opinion.
The three-hour drive would let him know if he just liked the name, "Penn State," or if he really liked the school. And, Allen emphasized afterward, he now likes more than just that name. After watching that practice and speaking to the coaches, he likes everything Penn State has to offer.
"Yeah, it's fair to say that," he said. "Before the trip, I didn't know much about the school except for what happened with [Jerry] Sandusky, just with the whole sanctions and everything. I just knew they still had a nice brotherhood and they stuck together -- and that the tradition is outstanding. That's the only thing I really knew.
"When I went on the visit, it changed my whole outlook on Penn State. I just like it a lot. I mean, everything -- the players, the coaches, the facilities -- my outlook just really changed."
Allen holds nearly 20 offers -- including ones from PSU, Arizona, Pittsburgh and Georgia Tech -- while Shelton is still searching for his first scholarship. The two prospects ate breakfast before starting their visit around 10:45 a.m. by taking a campus tour. From there, they spoke with defensive coordinator John Butler and safeties coach Anthony Midget, then came the academic advisers, then the weight room, training staff, a tour of the practice facility, lunch, practice, dinner, the locker room and one last chat with Bill O'Brien and assistant coaches Larry Johnson and Midget.
They tried on jerseys, visited Beaver Stadium and snapped photos throughout the long day.
"On my phone, I probably took like seven photos and sent them to my parents," Shelton said. "Marcus took like 10, and our coach took like 30. It was just a great visit. I loved the campus, everybody was nice -- the student body was cool -- and I was in love with the football team.
"And I really loved the coaches. Their coaches are real; there's no fake stuff. They don't try to sugarcoat anything."
Allen and Shelton, who stands 5-foot-9 and 160 pounds, both met with Morris. And the departing cornerback, who's hoping to hear his name called on draft day, had some words of advice for the small corner -- who actually stood a full inch taller than him: Don't let anyone tell you that you can't do something because of your size.
Despite that memorable advice, Shelton said his favorite time occurred in the Lasch Football Building. He was wowed by the weight room and said it was the nicest he had ever seen -- but that wasn't his only favorite moment. He also liked the dining area.
"My favorite part about the trip was also the food," he said with a laugh. "That's probably why the athletes are so big up there; the food's great. There was shrimp, lobster, grilled steak, grilled chicken. And the ice cream is great -- they got like homemade ice cream. I'm a small guy, but I eat all the time."
Allen and Shelton said they both plan on returning to campus in time for the Blue-White game on April 20. They might stay an extra day and check out the carnival alongside Beaver Stadium, but they're not sure yet.
For now, the pair just said their outlook on Penn State's changed for the better. And Allen said the staff really made an impact. He felt wanted.
"They really liked me and want me to go to their school," Allen said. "They showed me the depth chart and said I could make an impact. They didn't say I would get a starting position -- no school would tell me that -- but they said the opportunity to play early is really high. So I know if I work my butt off in the weight room and classroom, then I can get that job."