What a way to celebrate a kid’s 18th birthday. On Thursday Northeast High School defensive end Deion Barnes celebrated his by holding a press conference in his school’s auditorium in Philadelphia wearing the colors of the North Philly Aztecs youth football team that got him started in the sport, his friends and family by his side and announcing his college decision. That decision ended up being good news for Penn State as Barnes gave his verbal commitment to the Nittany Lions.
The recruitment of Barnes got off to a good start when Joe Paterno mailed a self-written letter to the high school defensive star, which really impressed the kid and may have put Penn State in the early lead. “The very first letter. Handwritten from Joe Paterno,” Cynthia Barnes continued. “That made a big impression. I was overwhelmed. I showed it to my boss, who’s a Penn State fan, and he was like, ‘Whoa! This is some good stuff. You should save this.’ “
“Penn State was relentless,” Cynthia Barnes, Deion’s mother, said in a report by Ted Silary for Philly.com. “If I showed you all the mail we got from them, you wouldn’t believe it. It’s important to feel you’re needed. That happened from the start.”
The final decision was a relief to Cynthia, who said she was unsure which way her son would be leaning after making a trip to Georgia last week. “I was like, ‘Good, I don’t want to drive to Georgia. And I don’t have the money to fly down there, either.’ My husband [Robert] was hoping it would go this way, but we still knew the decision was Deion’s, not ours.”
Barnes, last season’s Philadelphia Public League Player of the Year, choosing Penn State became more likely in the off-season as recruiting rivals Michiagn and Pittsburgh underwent changes at the head coach position and struggled to find a suitable replacement. Barnes measures in at 6′-5″ and 230 pounds and he made sure to do his research on how he would fit in at Penn State and compare that to how he would fit in at Georgia. In the end, Georgia once again failed to make a Penn State recruit feel welcomed.
“There was a high comfortability level with Penn State,” Barnes said. “I don’t want to say I felt like an outcast at Georgia, but I felt like I was around ‘my guys’ at Penn State.” Georgia was also leaning toward recruiting Barnes to play outside linebacker according to Lions247. At Penn State he will continue to play his more natural defensive end position. “I’m not just some skinny speedster who can’t play against the run,” he said.
Barnes was recruited by Penn State’s defensive line coach Larry Johnson, who ensured he would be sticking around at Penn State rather than leave for any opportunities elsewhere. “He’s the one, in all of this, that’s the most important to me footballwise,” Barnes said. “I’ll be working with him. I like that he doesn’t curse out guys, and that he’s honest.”
Barnes is Penn State’s 15th prospective member of the Class of 2011. National Signing Day is Wednesday, February 2, 2011.
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