Jamil Pollard, DT, West Deptford (NJ)
When Jamil Pollard committed to Penn State--for the second time--he committed to a school that was in turmoil, to a program that didn't have a head coach, to a fanbase that was in desperate need of good news. While other high schoolers were jumping ship on Penn State and our class of 2012 was hemorrhaging recruits, Pollard signed up to help salvage it.
Jamil Pollard became a Nittany Lion in the darkest of times, and for that, he's deservedly become a fan favorite.
"It’s something that happened, it has no effect on my decision," Pollard said. "It’s not going to change what Penn State is. It’s not going to change my relationship with the school."
But beyond providing all of Penn State with a momentary shot in the arm, Jamil Pollard will be counted on by Bill O'Brien, Ted Roof, and crew to be a force in the middle. The 6'4, 280 pound defensive tackle from Westville, New Jersey was one of the more highly rated members of Penn State's recruiting class; he was named to the Offense-Defense All America Bowl, and ESPN's all-state team, as well as pretty much every all-region team imaginable. For that, Pollard garnered a 4-star rating from Rivals and 247, and boasted offers from Iowa, Rutgers, Boston College, UNC, Florida and Alabama.
Take that football skill and combine it with Pollard's passion and drive, especially off the gridiron, and you've got a really special kid, the kind of kid who has the integrity to endure the jokes at Penn State's expense and lead a defense that allowed 87 points all season en route to a state championship.
In other words, you've got an ultimate Penn Stater.
The Gloucester County Times named Pollard its Defensive Player of the Year, and their announcement reads as a glowing endorsement of Pollard's football ability and character.
With the way he’s learned to combine the joy of playing with the maturity to lead, the team lucky enough to land Pollard will be getting far more than just a talented football player and playmaker."
He’s the type of guy that can change the way the team feels instantly," said Eagles quarterback/defensive back Jake Hannan.
"We’re all intense going out on the field, and then he says that funny little thing to ease the tension."To have such an incredible athlete play loose helps everyone. He’s like the Ray Lewis of the team, firing everybody up. It’s a pretty incredible thing to see."
But of course, this only tells half the story. Jamil Pollard first committed to Penn State over 11 months ago, just before the 2011 Blue/White Game. Before he could become a savior in the eyes of a fanbase, Pollard had to suffer through the indignity of losing his scholarship due to unacceptable grades.
He went into the summer before his senior year with a 1.7 GPA, and an ominous sense. Soon, the anvil fell.
In July, he received a call from Penn State assistant coach Ron Vanderlinden. His offer had been pulled because his grades were too poor. "I knew it was coming," Pollard said of the phone call. "It’s like when you know death is coming for you. I knew it was coming."
Pollard took the call in his coach’s office at the school. His eyes quickly welled, and after hearing that his offer to play at the school had been revoked, the rest of the conversation was a blur. He spent the following moments slumped sadly in his chair.
But that became a turning point in Pollard's still-young life, proving the old F. Scott Fitzgerald quote wrong: there are second acts in football recruitments. With his full senior year ahead of him, Pollard grew up in a hurry, crediting that discussion with Vandy as the stimulus. He didn't just excel on the football field--tallying 83 tackles and 5 sacks--he straightened himself out in the classroom too, pulling his GPA up high enough so that when Penn State needed him the most, he could be there for them. And after what he went through as a young adult, I think it's imperative that Penn State be there for Jamil at all times.
But while leadership and maturity can't be easily captured on video, football can. Here's what we've won: