Jake Kiley got to see Malik Golden in action personally at the end of last football season.
It was an eye-opening experience for Kiley.
Golden had 302 yards rushing and receiving - most of it coming in the second half - as his Cheshire (Conn.) Academy team beat Kiley's New Hampton (N.H.) School squad, 49-20, in the Dan Rorke Bowl.
"He's a great player. He's definitely hard to tackle,'' Kiley said of Golden.
Kiley won't have to worry about tackling Golden anymore. At least, not in anything other than a scrimmage.
Penn State continued to assemble its all-star team of New England prep school talent on Wednesday when Golden gave the Nittany Lions their 17th verbal commitment for the class of 2012. Golden joins Kiley and Massachusetts' Catholic Memorial standouts Camren Williams and Armani Reeves. Penn State still is pursuing another blue-chip New England prep player, Worcester Academy receiver Canaan Severin.
While he put up some unbelievable numbers on offense last season, the 6-foot-1, 185-pound Golden was recruited as a cornerback by the Nittany Lions assistant coach Kermit Buggs. Kiley and Reeves also play in the secondary, and Williams is a safety who probably will grow into a linebacker.
"I'm friends with Jake. Jake and I went to Penn State together for camp. I talk to Armani and, also, Camren. We're all just happy everything is working out,'' said Golden, who actually received his scholarship offer at Penn State's summer camp, as did Kiley. "[Penn State] just brought us together.''
Golden committed to the Lions after making an unofficial visit last Friday. He also had considered Iowa, UConn and Boston College - although he had said in previous interviews that he would visit Iowa, the first college to offer him a scholarship even if he committed to Penn State, he backed away from that stance after pledging to the Nittany Lions.
"Right now, I'm happy with Penn State. Maybe [I'll visit Iowa], but probably not. I'm satisfied,'' Golden said. "Penn State had the best balance between football and academics. When I went there, I just got a great feel. It was basically a gut feeling. So, I just thought this would be the right time [to announce my decision], right before I head into the preseason for football and get this weight off my chest.''
It's not his chest but his legs that drew the attention of a number of big-time colleges - Miami and Georgia Tech also expressed interest. Golden has timed in the 40-yard dash at 4.52 seconds.
Golden transferred from Newington High School in suburban Hartford to Cheshire last year, repeating his junior year to getting better prepared academically for college. On the field, he averaged nearly 14 yards per carry for the Cats, rushing for a team-best 745 yards, while also catching 48 passes for 680 yards.
"Towards the second half of the year, he really hit a stride,'' Cheshire coach Danny O'Dea said. "He's got great hips and great playmaking ability. He's long, and he'll fill in, too. He's all of 6-feet and may end up being 6-1, 195 as a corner.''
In Cheshire's only loss to Suffield, Golden went to O'Dea with the Cats trailing 44-12 at halftime and told him emphatically he wanted the ball and scored on a 56-yard run the next time he touched it to spark a comeback that fell a point short. With Cheshire trailing Tabor, 12-0, at the half three weeks later, Golden scored on the second half kickoff and on the Cats' first offensive play of the third quarter to turn the game around.
Then there was the game against New Hampton.
"We were in pass defense. They just did draws and screens in the second half, and he killed us,'' Kiley, who first met Golden on a trip to Boston College, said. "It was 14-14 at the half.''
Golden has been a winner from the start. As a receiver and safety in seventh grade, his team won the Pop Warner national championship his first year playing football. Golden also plays lacrosse and basketball and is considering a double major of psychology and business.
"He's a great kid,'' Kiley said. "I'm happy to have him as a teammate.''