Flanked by his mother and high school coach, DeAndre Thompkins took a seat inside Bill O'Brien's office Friday afternoon and smiled.
The 2014 wideout out of Swansboro (N.C.) chatted with the coach for about 30 minutes. O'Brien showed off a photo of him standing alongside former New England receiver Randy Moss, and the two chatted about football and life.
"He was a guy who didn't want to push you in one direction," Thompkins said. "He was one of the those guys who wanted the best for you no matter where you're at."
Thompkins said his time with Penn State's coaches was the most memorable part of his two-day, 400-mile trip to Happy Valley. And his favorite part might have happened right before O'Brien sat behind his desk.
As O'Brien approached Thompkins and extended a firm handshake, he told the junior wideout something that struck him days later: Your word is the strongest thing you have. If you don't commit here, then I totally understand and I want the best for you. And if you shake my hand and give me your word, I'll trust you.
"Usually, guys don't come out and say that when you first meet them," Thompkins said. "As soon as he said that, just those first couple sentences, I knew he's a guy who'd tell you the truth. I knew he had very good morals."
The 6-foot, 170-pound prospect holds seven offers already -- including one from PSU -- and is "very interested" in the university.
Swansboro coach Tim Laspada, a fan of the Nittany Lions, has implored his young wideout to seriously consider the school. Thompkins' basketball coach is also an alum, and he said about four of his teachers have ties to Penn State -- so he's constantly asked why he just hasn't committed already.
"I get that a lot at school," he said with a laugh. "I hear, 'Why not commit already to one of the best schools in the country?' But the thing I stand behind is that I have so much in front of me, I have so much hard work to go through to get bigger, faster, stronger so there could be more opportunities.
"I just want to experience as much as I can before I shut down the curtain and tell the teams I'm committed. It's nothing against Penn State."
Thompkins has heard plenty about Penn State's tradition and Beaver Stadium. His coaches told him the field is one everyone should see before he dies. They emphasized the fan base and the academics.
The junior watched Penn State compete on TV and felt he knew what to expect heading into this past weekend's visit. But, he said, his time in Happy Valley exceeded the lofty expectations his coaches and those teachers set for him.
"It was higher than my expectations; that visit just showed me a lot," Thompkins said. "The visit showed me just how much they believe I should come to their school and that I'm a right fit for their program. You could tell I was loved once I got on campus."
Thompkins strolled the sideline Saturday afternoon for the Wisconsin game. And once he stepped through that tunnel and saw mammoth Penn State players in blue warming up, he could feel his adrenaline pumping. He stared at the screaming fans and could barely hear himself talk.
"When you walk out of that tunnel and see all those people, you just want to put a uniform on yourself and go out there," he said. "As soon as you hear those fans, you want to go out there yourself and start making plays. It's just breathtaking; it makes you want to jump in the game and do things you don't think you can."