Wendy Laurent has come far in more ways than one.
When he was just a year old, Wendy's family left the impoverished Caribbean nation of Haiti, looking for something better in the United States. That brought them to New Jersey and took him to Hun School, the Princeton prep school, when he was in sixth grade.
Over the last few years, Laurent has worked his way, playing against Hun's tough competition - Hun and its opponents use some players who have already graduated from more-traditional high schools - into a Division I college football prospect.
Today Laurent will be one of what is expected to be 18 recruits to sign letters-of-intent to attend Penn State. Another member of the class, tight end Jesse James, already is enrolled.
As expected, the Nittany Lions did lose out on a recruit Tuesday when Philadelphia quarterback Skyler Mornhinweg confirmed that he would sign with Floriday - Mornhinweg earlier had switched his verbal commitment from Stanford to Penn State.
Laurent, though, was eager to secure his place in the class. A versatile offensive lineman, he committed to the Lions last week after making an official visit to University Park on the weekend of Jan. 20-22.
"It started off when I was in eighth or ninth grade. I used to go to their camps over the summer, so Penn State always was one of my top schools,'' Laurent said. "It's always been a dream school, just the institution and the academics. I went up with my dad, and my dad loves it. I always loved the football aspect, but, when I went on my visit, I was looking up the academic aspect.''
Penn State was by far the most prominent school from an athletic standpoint that recruited the 6-foot-4, 285-pound Laurent. His other visits were to Elon and Richmond. UConn, UMass, Buffalo and Navy also reportedly had offered him a scholarship.
Hun coach Dave Dudeck, though, thinks Penn State new Lion offensive line coach Mac McWhorter might end looking ultimately like he got a real steal.
"We have actually played him as a center, as a guard and as a tackle on offense and as a D-tackle and a D-end on defense,'' Dudeck said. "He's very bright. He has a good football intellect. He possesses all the intangibles. He's a very, very hard worker. The biggest thing is that he's very, very young. As he matures, he's going to be developed in the weight room. I've seen it. He played basketball up until last year. Once he gave up basketball and got into the weight room, he's made huge strides.
"He's 280, 285 now with long arms. He's still very quick. He has such an upside.''
Keyed by Laurent, Hun went 8-1 this year and captured its first conference title since 2007.
Dudeck knows what it takes to play big-time college football, having sent numerous players to the Division I ranks, including current Penn State freshman tackle Anthony Alosi. He also knows Laurent very well; Laurent has been playing for him for four years, becoming a two-way starter partway into his sophomore season. Laurent is the best friend of Dudeck's son, too.
"He comes to work every day. He's such a coachable kid,'' Dudeck said.
Laurent has put on a lot of good weight and added strength over the last few years to try to make himself into a college football prospect. Although his athletic ability still is his calling card, Laurent now bench presses 345 pounds and squats 465 while maintaining 5.0-second speed in the 40-yard dash. He has thrown the shot 46 feet for Hun's track team.
"Coach McWhorter said right now he sees me right as one of the inside lineman, a center/guard-type, but mostly center,'' said Laurent, whose first communication with Penn State was through former assistant Dick Anderson. "I think my strength is my quickness and my footwork.''
Laurent spent much of his visit with Alosi, Alosi's roommate, DaQuan Jones, and fellow recruit Steven Bench. He said Alosi was a big factor in getting him to where he is today, and that doesn't just mean Penn State.
"He was a post-grad, and he helped me to get a lot better. I watched him, watched him go through the whole recruiting process,'' Laurent said. "Having him at the school definitely helps.''
As a Penn State fan growing up, Laurent said he was happy to be part of Bill O'Brien's first recruiting class.
"It feels good to be going there and being able to progress with the program,'' Laurent said. "We're looking forward to the future.''