Jamil Pollard has never been one to shrink from putting in the extra time and breaking a sweat.
In fact, he goes looking for it.
That's a big reason the 6-foot-4, 280-pound defensive lineman from southern New Jersey says he was attracted to Penn State.
"I had a serious conversation with Coach [Larry] Johnson, the D-Line coach, and he told me this was the place I needed to be if I wanted to work hard, if I wanted to achieve and I wanted to get a good education,'' Pollard said.
That was good enough for Pollard to forego trips to Iowa, Florida and Alabama to become the fifth member of the Nittany Lions' 2012 football recruiting class. Pollard returned from an unofficial visit to University Park on Saturday, and, after speaking his family, called the Penn State coaches back the next day to make his pledge.
"I was up there for a junior day with six or seven other players. They gave us a tour of the facilities and let us talk to the players and the coaches and, right away, I knew this was the school for me,'' Pollard said. "Sunday, I talked to my dad for about a half-hour, and he said he liked that school a lot. When he talked to the players, he said he loved it. They told him everything he needed to know about Penn State, and he loved it. And I just agreed.
"He said he was proud of me, because I said everything right.''
Although some of the colleges in pursuit liked him as a guard, Pollard fills one of what recruiting analysts figure to be around three defensive tackle slots for the Lions in this recruiting class.
This will be Pollard's fourth year starting at West Deptford High School in the town of Westville just southeast of Cherry Hill. As a junior, he was named first-team all-South Jersey by both the Philadelphia Inquirer and the Cherry Hill Courier Post, the top-ranked defensive lineman in New Jersey by the McCarthy Report and to the state's Super 100 by the coaches association after registering 58 tackles, four sacks, three forced fumbles and three batted-down passes for the Eagles, who finished 11-1.
"Penn State is getting an individual who works very hard. He's sincere. He's disciplined. He plays hard. His motor's always running. He's a special athlete,'' said West Deptford coach Clyde Folsom, who's watched Pollard develop from a raw eighth grader to a big-time Division I prospect.
Folsom has turned out a number of Division I players in his 21 years coaching at West Deptford - including former Nittany Lion and current West Deptford volunteer assistant coach Anthony Scirrotto - and he said Pollard is probably the most highly recruited prospect the Eagles have had.
"He's very fast. He runs well to the football, and he finds the football. He's got good hands, and he explodes off the line of scrimmage. He's got to improve his core strength a bit, but he's working on that,'' Folsom said. "The fact that he runs well, I think, will entice people to look at him on defense. If that doesn't work out, there's no doubt in my mind that he'll be a very solid guard at the collegiate level.''
Folsom said Pollard also has a strong appreciation and understanding for the game. That shouldn't be surprising, since he's been playing since he was about 6 years old and his father and two older brothers have played football at least at the semi-pro level, although he's the only lineman out of the bunch.
"It's really weird,'' Pollard said. "None of them were my size when they were my age.''
As a testament to Pollard's athletic ability, he plays both basketball and volleyball - he's taking part in a volleyball marathon for charity later this week. In addition, he likes to go bowling with friends on occasion and he lifts weights almost every day at the gym owned by Scirrotto.
Pollard said Scirrotto didn't try to push him toward his alma mater, but nothing the former Lion safety had to say about playing in Happy Valley dissuaded him from going there, either.
"Anthony Scirrotto told me it was a great place,'' Pollard said. "He told me the D-Line coach was a great D-Line coach who really knew what he was doing and he knew how to get after it, and the D-Linemen were always working hard at Penn State.''
So, Pollard figures he will fit right in.