For almost all football players, making the jump from high school to college is a tremendous challenge.
Zach Bradshaw, though, might be wondering what to do with all of his free time.
"At our level, he's just kind of a jack-of-all-trades,'' Damascus, Md. High School football coach Eric Wallich said. "We use him as punt return, kickoff return. He's our long snapper. He plays outside linebacker. He plays receiver. He plays wildcat quarterback. He just kind of does everything for us.''
That probably won't be an issue after this season. Although several colleges recruited Bradshaw as a wideout, the 6-foot-3, 210-pound senior-to-be issued a verbal commitment on Wednesday to join Penn State as an outside linebacker in the Nittany Lions' 2013 recruiting class.
Bradshaw, who made his second unofficial visit to University Park over the weekend, is the 13th player to commit to Penn State and the second of an expected four linebackers.
"I had a great opportunity, and it was the right choice, and I didn't want to let it slip away,'' Bradshaw told the Gaithersburg Gazette. "I'm so happy, this relieves a lot of stress, so I can just focus on playing football this fall.''
Bradshaw ultimately picked the Nittany Lions over Virginia, Northwestern and South Carolina. He had about 15 scholarship offers - some others came from Arizona, Michigan, West Virginia, Illinois, Maryland, North Carolina State and Boston College.
Wallich said there was no strong consensus on what position would fit Bradshaw the best at the next level; both Northwestern and South Carolina wanted him for offense. Already a three-year starter, Bradshaw actually made second-team all-Maryland as a junior as an offensive all-purpose player, catching 28 passes for six touchdowns and averaging more than 8 yards per carry on a Swarmin' Hornet team that finished 9-3.
"For a while, I thought he was going to end up on a team that wanted him for offense, because that's what I thought he wanted to do. But he kind of flipped the switch and really liked going [for] defense, because he thought maybe he would have better future success,'' Wallich said. "They [the Nittany Lion coaches] got a chance to look at him in person, and they really liked what they saw. He's so athletic. I think with modern football going with the spread offenses, once they were on board, and he went up there, he just kind of fell in love with [Penn State].''
Bradshaw fills a number of roles in Damascus' multiple 4-3 defense, sometimes covering the tight end, sometimes playing like a defensive end and sometimes playing a more traditional outside linebacker. He reportedly had approximately 80 tackles as a junior; Wallich said he'd often try to give him a breather on that side of the ball.
"Sitting down with the coaches and seeing what linebackers do has really impressed me,'' Bradshaw said. "Physically I think I have a better chance at the [college] level on defense in some cases.''
Recruited primarily by Larry Johnson, Bradshaw also had his first chance to meet face-to-face with Lion linebackers coach Ron Vanderlinden last weekend.
"I like him a lot," Bradshaw said. "I like the campus a lot. It's a really big school, but in a pretty confined area. They run similar stuff to what I already do at Damascus with a 4-3 front and 90 percent of the time I would be outside of the box.''
Bradshaw told the Gazette that the Nittany Lion coaches addressed the recent scandal and trial surrounding former Penn State assistant Jerry Sandusky, as well.
"Everything else going on not related to football has not been a concern at all. Coach O'Brien answered all the questions we had regarding that,'' Bradshaw said.
Before visiting Penn State, Bradshaw returned from a church mission to Honduras.
"If you're rating someone's character, he would be off the charts. He's literally the nicest guy in the world, and he comes from a great family,'' Wallich said. "He's been going on missionary trips to Honduras every summer. We get on him about not being in the weight room with us, but how can you not respect what he's doing?''
The Lions, who previously had a commitment from New Jersey's Brandon Bell, are expected to try to land two more pledges at linebacker. One of the top players on their board, Wyomissing's Alex Anzalone, is expected to be on campus today along with several other players that already have verbally committed; recruiting analysts believe Penn State is trailing Notre Dame and Florida for his services.
Central Dauphin's Zayd Issah, Maryland's Marcus Newby, Florida's Freddie Stevenson and Michael Deeb, New Jersey's Al-Rasheed Benton and Alabama's Jonathan Walton are the other linebackers on the Lions' short list. Penn State is also hoping to get Philadelphia running back David Williams and Clairton receiver/safety Tyler Boyd on campus over the next few days.