Source: Bowstring StudiosConnor McGovern discusses playing in the U.S. Army All-American Bowl
As if graduating from high school and going through the holidays weren’t enough, Connor McGovern’s new year was just getting started.
He spent a week in San Antonio for a nationally televised football all-star game. From there, it was an early morning flight to Philadelphia.
Next was a trip up the Northeast Extension back home to Luzerne County, where the Lake-Lehman alum had to quickly pack up his life before getting back in the car for another two-hour drive to State College to make it in time for orientation.
“This has been crazy,” McGovern said while still in Texas. “I haven’t stopped the past couple weeks.”
A whirlwind month that finally got him to Penn State on Jan. 10 is only the beginning of a year that could see him contributing to the Nittany Lions’ offensive line this fall — very much a rarity for a freshman.
If it all seems to be happening fast, well, that’s been something of a trend for McGovern.
A center for the Black Knights who also played on the basketball and track and field teams, McGovern suddenly began receiving national attention and scholarship offers for football.
Boston College, Duke, Georgia Tech, Maryland, Miami, Michigan State, Pitt, Rutgers, Stanford, Syracuse and West Virginia were among the schools that recruited him.
“In not even six months, it just completely blew up,” McGovern said at the time. “I never expected it to be like this.”
Ultimately, however, it came down to Penn State and North Carolina. He committed to Penn State coach James Franklin on a trip to Happy Valley last March, saying the shorter distance from home was the deciding factor.
He followed a plan to graduate a semester early from Lake-Lehman. In the meantime, he helped lead the Black Knights to a Wyoming Valley Conference crown and a spot in the District 2 Class 2A finals.
Rated as one of the top offensive linemen in the country, he was selected to play in the U.S. Army All-American Bowl Jan. 9, where he started at center for the East squad.
Now, McGovern said, Penn State coaches have told him they’re planning to play him this season.
“To me, the ideal lineman (recruit) for us would be someone who’s 6-5, 6-6, plays high school basketball and is really athletic,” Franklin said. “And then we get him with our (strength) guys, let him marinate for a year, and now you got a guy who’s 300 pounds but lean and athletic.”
Most high school linemen, however, aren’t as advanced physically as McGovern is at age 18. Penn State listed him at 6-foot-5, 312 pounds when adding him to the roster.
Most teenagers don’t have the advantage of getting into a college training program a semester early to go through winter workouts and spring practice with their new team.
“It’s tough for anyone,” said Steve Wiltfong, national recruiting director for the 247Sports network that scouted McGovern in San Antonio. “But he’s enrolling early and getting in those 15 practices, getting to know the guys and everything.
“A lot of guys aren’t as ready physically to play as Connor. They’re not physically ready to go. He looks ready to go,” Wiltfong added. “He needs another semester, getting into the strength and conditioning program at that time. But he’s close right now, and that should give him the boost he needs to be ready in September.”
If he’s ready in 2016, McGovern would be the first true freshman offensive lineman to play for Penn State in eight years.
Of course, much could happen over the next eight months, and there has already been one curveball thrown his way. Offensive line coach Herb Hand left to take a job at Auburn on the same day McGovern started classes. Franklin hired his replacement, Matt Limegrover, less than 48 hours later.
On the plus side, he’s not the only one going through this hectic period. Three other recruits in his class also enrolled this month, including his roommate Jake Zembiec, a quarterback from Rochester, New York.
While McGovern was making his mad dash to get to State College, Zembiec was set to reach campus the day before to begin setting things up.
“We’re all really close right now,” McGovern said of his fellow freshmen. “Especially the guys who are early enrolling. We’re all close friends and that’s a big help.”
Reach Derek Levarse at 570-991-6396 or on Twitter @TLdlevarse