For West Catholic High School senior-to-be Curtis Drake, catching passes in college might be the best path to getting a chance to eventually throwing them.
At least, that’s the plan.
Drake went public with his verbal commitment to Penn State during a press conference at his high school Thursday morning after accepting Nittany Lion coach Joe Paterno’s scholarship offer on a Tuesday visit. Drake is the 12th member of a class expected to eventually number between 25 and 28 players.
Drake wants to major in architecture in college. It appears to be a fitting choice, because he’s designed a 19-1 record as the Burrs’ starting varsity quarterback after going 25-0 in ninth grade and JV at the position. Before that, he won a league title in junior high.
Drake, whose favorite player is West Virginia’s Pat White, thrives under center, and he was first-team all-Philadelphia Catholic League Blue Division after taking West Catholic to a 10-1, second-straight division-championship season. However, at 6-foot, 175 pounds with sub-4.5-second speed in the 40-yard dash, a 36-inch vertical jump and a 4.17-second 20-yard shuttle time, Drake’s game translates well to other positions, and he won’t start out as a quarterback for the Nittany Lions.
‘‘The coaches think I have a good shot at playing quarterback eventually. As far as playing early, I’m probably coming in as a wideout,’’ Drake, who also was considered by some scouting services as a defensive back, said. ‘‘I’ll be a slot receiver.’’
Drake knew that was probably in the cards. As a result, he’s been working out at both receiver and quarterback on the combine circuit this spring.
Drake picked Penn State over Georgia Tech, Maryland, UConn and Miami of Ohio. The Yellow Jackets and Maryland recruited him as a quarterback. Minnesota and Northwestern pursued him as a receiver.
‘‘I just liked the environment and the atmosphere [at Penn State],’’ said Drake, who first drew attention from the Lions as a sophomore. ‘‘My opportunity to get on the field early [was the reason I picked Penn State].’’
There figures to be playing time available at receiver in 2009, because the Lions will graduate their top three receivers (Derrick Williams, Deon Butler and Jordan Norwood) following this season.
Drake’s ultimate goal, though, is eventually to make the transition back to quarterback, something West Catholic coach Brian Fluck seems to think he can do even though he doesn’t possess the prototypical size for the position.
‘‘He has got the athletic ability. He has a lot of confidence. He has an edge that always lets him make plays,’’ said Fluck. ‘‘Right now, he just wants an opportunity to play quarterback. They’re going to give him a shot.’’
As a junior, Drake completed 75-of-143 passes for 1,325 yards and 20 touchdowns to go along with 597 yards and nine touchdowns rushing, although the Burrs won seven games by more than three touchdowns and he was often on the bench by the third quarter.
While Fluck praises Drake’s technique and athletic ability, it is his poise that gets the highest marks.
‘‘I’m not scared of competition. If my team needs anything, I step up,’’ Drake said. ‘‘Since I was young, I was always competitive.’’
Drake wasn’t a Penn State fan when he was young, though. He grew up liking Michigan. Now he’ll be trying to beat the Wolverines, and, if things go according to his plans, someday matching up with another multi-purpose quarterback from Pennsylvania who is playing at Ohio State.
‘‘It’s going to be big seeing Terrelle Pryor,’’ Drake said.