Garrity following in dad's walk-on footsteps

Gregg Garrity Jr. thought about committing to Penn State as a preferred walk-on for the last five days. His father -- the Nittany Lions' most well-known walk-on of the 1980s -- advised him to hold off.

But the younger Garrity's mind raced. If he waited, could he get an offer from another school? Should he go to a place he could play right away? Did he want to go to a smaller college? How did the education stack up?

By Wednesday afternoon, Garrity (Wexford, Pa./North Allegheny) found answers to most of those questions -- at least enough that he was able to answer the biggest one. Where did he want to spend the next four years of his life?

"Really, what it came down to, was that I wanted to go to Penn State," he said about an hour after calling up assistant coach Charlie Fisher to commit. "I just felt like this was the right fit, and I couldn't wait any longer."

Garrity will follow in his father's footsteps as a wideout walk-on and said his aim is show that every school that turned him away made a mistake. Other colleges certainly erred with his father, who made "The Catch" in the 1983 national championship, and the 5-foot-10, 143-pound Garrity pledged -- his voice rising passionately -- that he would one day get on that field at Beaver Stadium.

"I just want to prove it to myself and to all these other schools," Garrity said. "I love the game, and I'm going to work my butt off to do whatever I can to make it. I'm intent on doing it."

Garrity was receiving heavy interest from Bucknell and Div. II schools. And, up until last week, he figured he'd just hold off to see what opportunities became available. But, once he attended Penn State's "Run-On Day" on Jan. 20, his mind started to change.

Fisher told Garrity he would stop by North Allegheny that Wednesday, exactly one week ago. Sure enough, when Garrity was asked to report to his coach's office, Fisher was standing there with a big smile.

But that's not what surprised Garrity. What shocked Garrity, what really showed him Penn State was committed to him and thought highly of him, was who was standing beside Fisher: Head coach Bill O'Brien.

"I wouldn't say I made my decision right then, but it helped," Garrity said. "Just sitting there talking to him made all the difference in the world. He's a great coach, and he just did unbelievable things this past year. I was just blown away when I saw them both there.

"Over the past five days, I really had my mind set to go to Penn State. For sure, just seeing Coach O'Brien there made a huge difference."

Fisher and Garrity have spoken to each other at least once a week since the fourth game of his senior season. Other schools, even Bucknell, didn't show interest in the possession receiver until later. So Garrity remembered all that.

Penn State showed him loyalty, while Bucknell strung him along with the hope of a scholarship offer. Garrity thought about playing under the lights of Beaver Stadium, watching the White Outs and hearing the fans and couldn't pass up that opportunity, even at the prospect of a free education elsewhere.

The small wideout, about the same size as Jordan Norwood when he arrived on campus, considered Penn State a second home. And, in the end, he couldn't turn down a welcoming invitation from home.

"It seemed like I was a priority to them," Garrity said. "I can't wait."