TYRONE - Steve Franco is comfortable and excited about his decision to play football at the University of Akron.
With his parents, John and Sue Franco, and athletic director Tom Coleman looking on, Tyrone Area High School's all-state quarterback and the Associated Press Class AA Player of the Year signed a national letter of intent Wednesday.
Franco, who verbally committed in July, wasn't sure what to expect when head coach Rob Ianello, quarterback coach Ron Powlus, who recruited him, and the rest of the Akron staff were fired after the 2011 season.
"At first, I was trying to see how high I could go, and I was looking at schools like Pitt, Cincinnati, UConn and Rutgers - schools in the Big East - and Penn State, too, because they were so close," Franco said. "But, once I got into my senior year, I realized the MAC [Mid-American Conference] level was more where I'd fit in, so I was looking at Akron, Kent State and Temple.
"Akron was the first to offer me. They told me they didn't want to look at other quarterbacks and I was their guy, and I really liked that."
After the staff that offered him a scholarship was fired, Franco kept an open mind until after his official visit.
"I got to meet the new coaches and I really like them just as much as the last staff," he said. "I really think we can get a good thing going there."
Akron's new head coach, Terry Bowden, used to coach at Auburn, and is the son of legendary Florida State coach Bobby Bowden.
"They're going to bring in recruits from the south, with speed, and I think they'll run a very good system that people will want to play for," Franco said.
"I really do love the new staff. If I didn't, I would have tried to go somewhere else."
The Altoona Mirror's Player of the Year, Franco led the Golden Eagles to a 14-2 record and a runners-up finish to Lancaster Catholic in the 2011 PIAA Class AA playoffs. The 6-foot-3, 190-pounder completed 152 of 273 passes for 2,573 yards and 30 touchdowns as a senior, hiking his career totals to 353-of-615 for 6,021 yards and 65 TDs.
Franco will go to Akron in the summer with an open mind.
"The quarterbacks already there will be new to the system like me," he said. "They'll have spring practice experience on me, but the coaches want me to compete and see what I can do."
He'll take fond memories of his high school experience with him.
"Going through my sophomore and junior years and losing in the District 6 finals made this year all the sweeter," he said.
"The senior class winning the district championship and then almost winning the state championship was the best experience of my life," he said. "I wouldn't have wanted to do it with anyone else.
"Obviously, my dad being there made it extra special, and I wouldn't be here today [national signing day] without him."
Coaching his son was special for John Franco, too.
"Stevie had one of the great years of anyone I've ever coached," John Franco said. "Combining not just statistics, but winning. To be able to win the district championship and to go to the state championship game and top it off by winning the Double-A Player of the Year ... it doesn't get more special than that.
"And, the thing I loved about it was nobody worked any harder. He earned every bit of it."
Steve also saluted his mother.
"My mom has been just as important as my dad," Steve said. "She's the most supportive person in my life - my whole family is, but especially my mom. She's more on the academic side, but she knows her football, too."