James McHale waited for the whistle at Wednesday's practice, surging forward and plowing over an unsuspecting teammate during one-on-one drills. A little while later, his coach approached him after he landed atop another teammate after pushing him to the turf.
"Calm down, James," his coach told him.
The 2014 offensive tackle out of Dunmore (Pa.) couldn't help it. He was told shortly before that practice that Penn State's offensive line coach, Mac McWhorter, would be in the stands for Friday's game -- and McHale wanted to make sure he prepared himself as much as possible.
Sometimes when he's tired, he might try to relax for a play or two. Not Wednesday, he said. Sometimes, he might jog a little during sprints. Not with his season on the line and not with McWhorter coming to town, he added.
"I have a lot of nerves because it's a big state playoff game, and I have nerves because he's there to see me," McHale said. "I'm pushing myself a lot harder this week. It's an honor to have a great school like that considering me and watching me play. I'm getting goosebumps right now just talking about it."
The 6-foot-6, 289-pound junior doesn't yet hold a scholarship offer, but a dozen colleges are already recruiting him. He arrives at school with about a half-dozen letters awaiting him every other day. And, when he drives home, the postal carrier usually already stuffed another five letters in his mailbox.
But Penn State is going after him the hardest, he said. McWhorter stopped at his school about a month ago, and McHale already counts the Nittany Lions as one of his favorite teams. Michigan is the other.
The in-state product has driven the 2.5-hour route to Happy Valley for nearly every home game this season. He's stood on the sideline for every pregame, chatting with other recruits and paying special attention to the speed of the game.
"It's close, it's convenient to go, and I like it down there," he said. "When I went there for the one-day recruit camp, I loved it. The campus is great, the college is great -- that's why I keep going."
McHale isn't sure when Penn State might offer, but he's trying his best to show McWhorter on Friday that he's deserving. He said the assistant's upcoming visit was on his mind for most of the day and, although he's trying not to constantly think about it, he acknowledged it'll probably rest in the back of his mind until that final whistle Friday.
"Oh, it'll be on my mind," he said with a laugh. "But I'm trying not to get too nervous. It's definitely a big game, and the coach is going to be there. So I've just been going at it a lot harder."