"And they'll walk out to the bleachers, and sit in shirt-sleeves on a perfect afternoon. They'll find they have reserved seats somewhere along one of the baselines, where they sat when they were children and cheered their heroes. And they'll watch the game, and it'll be as if they'd dipped themselves in magic waters. The memories will be so thick, they'll have to brush them away from their faces." (Photo by Patrick Smith/Getty Images)
Currently, millions of high school juniors are preparing to engage the monumental task of preparing for college next year. They will register and, hopefully, prepare for the SAT/ACT, plan visits to schools and begin working on their essays. For the several thousand high school football players across the United States, the experience is quite different. For many of these players, their springtime will be spent participating in what is called "Junior Days."
So what are "Junior Days?" I'm glad you asked. While they differ from campus to campus, generally Junior Days are a school's first opportunity to have recruits, be they actual juniors or even younger guests (Penn State will have some Class of 2014 visitors this weekend), visit their campuses to get a feel for the respective schools. It's also an opportunity for coaches, players and the general public (you and me) to figure out the standings of these athletes relative to one another. Usually the "unofficial visit" involves a campus tour, facilities tour, conversations with coaches and other activities, which gives the prospects a feel for the academic and athletic environment at the school.
At Penn State, Junior Days function much like their college football brethren, which is to say that Junior Day is a glorified, invitation-only, open house. The slight difference is that Penn State typically hosts less than other schools; while at Texas you may see as many as 200 visitors in a weekend, Penn State will host about 50 this weekend.
As these trips are "unofficial," however, prospects and their families are responsible for their own travel expenses. This tends to bring high school juniors from the surrounding region. For example, Penn State will host kids from eight states this weekend, including Ohio (take that Urban Meyer), Maryland and New York. Penn State’s tour will probably include a tour of Beaver Stadium, the football facilities, including the currently-under-renovation strength and conditioning facilities, and the campus as a whole. It is our understanding that they will also take in THON. Perhaps they'll even stop by the Creamery and have a scoop of the best ice cream on the planet (I'd recommend the Apple Crumble one, if they have it).
Of course, 2012’s Junior Day will be under more scrutiny than years past. That is because, for the first time since Junior Days began, someone other than Joe Paterno will be the head coach. For many, this will be their first encounter with Bill O’Brien in his new role as head football coach. It will be interesting to see how O’Brien interacts with the recruits and his coaches. It will also be interesting to see if he gives offers to any of the attendees who will arrive in hopes of receiving a fully paid, four-year scholarship to Penn State University. Said offers could provide an insight into the direction Coach O’Brien intends to take the program and how much emphasis he places on values off the field. Nevertheless, it is entirely likely that we will begin to form our collective opinions about Coach O’Brien and the future of the football team beginning with the events of this weekend.
Stay with Black Shoe Diaries throughout the day, as we have tons of coverage planned for you.