Since picking up the game of football at the age of 6, Chris Godwin always has been bigger than the other players.
Physically, at first.
"In youth league, I was always at the higher part of the weight limit, so I usually played on the line, tackle, guard and what not. I was the biggest and fastest player on the team. It was kind of weird," Godwin said. "I didn't even play receiver until high school."
The other kids eventually caught up to Godwin in height and weight, but he's still a giant presence on the football field: Last year he was first-team all-state at three positions and was named Gatorade Player of the Year for Delaware as junior after leading Middletown High School to a 12-0 record.
Although it looked like Penn State might not have room for Godwin in its NCAA-restricted 2014 recruiting class after landing wideouts Troy Apke and De'Andre Thompkins in the last couple of weeks, the Nittany Lions found the big-time talent from the small state too good to pass up. The 6-foot-2, 198-pound Godwin called Lion coach Bill O'Brien to give his verbal commitment mid-Tuesday night and become the sixth recruit in a group expected to eventually wind up at 12 or 13.
"If you watch Chris Godwin on film, you really like him. If you talk to him, you love him. If you sit down with him, you offer him [a scholarship]," said Middletown coach Mark DelPercio, who's had numerous Division I players come through his program but called Godwin the best player he's ever coached. "When it comes to Chris Godwin, you look at it and go, 'Even though we don't need another receiver, this is a kid we want in our program.'"
Godwin was closing in on his 20th scholarship offer when he committed. His other top schools were Ohio State, Rutgers, South Carolina, USC and Virginia Tech - he'd been offered by and visited all of those but Southern Cal.
"The main thing is I realized [Penn State] was a great fit for me," Godwin said of his decision and its timing. "I feel very comfortable with everyone at Penn State, from the head coach to the strength and conditioning coach and training staff. It's a very good situation for me as far as the quarterback situation and the offense that they run."
Godwin is coming off a season in which he caught 42 passes for 834 yards and 12 touchdowns, rushed for another 427 yards and five TDs and took four of 10 kickoff returns the distance.
Only one of Middletown's wins was by fewer than 26 points. Godwin's Cavaliers beat Salesianum and fellow Nittany Lions recruit Troy Reeder twice.
"I've seen way too much of him. I'd hope he graduated. That was the biggest challenging [to defending Godwin]," Salesianum coach Bill DiNardo joked. "He might be the best all-around football player I've seen in all my years of coaching. He's strong, fast, big. I've seen him play for three years. If that ball is thrown in his area, he's getting it. He's coming down with it every time. Not four out of five times. Not nine out of 10. Every time. He can turn a 5-yard pass into a 95-yard touchdown."
"How many kids do you see who play split end and linebacker? He hits like a truck. And you're dumb if you kick it to him."
Godwin has run a laser-timed 4.48 in the 40, but his ability to be open even when he's well-covered sets him apart, much like is the case with his favorite player, Calvin Johnson.
"I feel like I have pretty good body control and I attack the ball in the air pretty well," Godwin said, "but the thing I like the best is making big catches, and I like scoring touchdowns."
Godwin moved up to the Cavaliers varsity as a freshman and has been a key part of back-to-back Middletown state championship teams. Football has always been his sport. He said it was pretty overwhelming, though, when he began to get noticed by bigger colleges.
"I always thought I was pretty good at football, but, honestly, the first I started to realize I might be able to play college football was my sophomore years when colleges started coming around," Godwin said. "When the bigger schools started coming around, I was surprised. I was ecstatic. I felt really blessed."
Recruited by Ron Vanderlinden, Godwin has been told he'll be an outside receiver by Penn State assistant Stan Hixon. He said the timing of his commitment wasn't affected by those of Apke and Thompkins - Penn State has in the neighborhood of six or seven scholarships left to give out, one for an offensive lineman and the rest on defense by most estimates.
"I just felt it was the right time for me, and I'm really comfortable with my decision," Godwin said. "It's what I feel is the best for me."