In the end, Aaron Maybin's decision to play for Penn State next season came down to the lush field inside Beaver Stadium, where he watched with more than 110,000 screaming fans as the Nittany Lions defeated Ohio State this month.
The Mount Hebron senior had attended Penn State's football camp last spring, where he established himself as one of the country's best players at his position -- defensive end. Coach Joe Paterno had a chicken lunch with him at the camp and told him he "was the kind of kid they loved to recruit," Maybin said. "What he said stuck with me the whole time when I was visiting other schools."
Dressed in a black suit and a black and silver checkerboard tie, Maybin announced his college choice Monday in the Mount Hebron auditorium in front of 50 teammates, family members and faculty. Maybin's oral commitment is not binding. But he said he will sign an NCAA national letter-of-intent Feb. 1, the first day recruits who did not sign during the early signing period can officially accept scholarships.
"My clear choice is Penn State," said Maybin, who will major in communications with an emphasis on radio and television broadcasting. "I'm not going to lie: My last visit there when they played Ohio State was great."
Penn State (6-1 overall, 3-1 Big Ten) is 12th in the Associated Press poll and 14th in USA Today's Coaches Poll.
Fifteen colleges, including Virginia Tech, Virginia, Auburn, Florida and Maryland, had offered Maybin full scholarships.
The first Mount Hebron football player offered a Division I-A scholarship in 33 years, Maybin initially wanted to make five official visits -- the most allowed by NCAA rules. Instead, he made three unofficial visits to Penn State -- during which recruits pay for everything except admission to games. He said he was treated like a member of the team during those visits.
He watched practices and attended team meetings and meals. And he went bowling with freshman wide receiver Derrick Williams, widely regarded as the nation's top recruit last year at Eleanor Roosevelt, and several other players and recruits. He played football video games in freshman defensive back Justin King's dorm room and celebrated with the team until sunrise after the 17-10 victory over Ohio State.
Maybin said that during his visits, he built "a lot of great relationships at Penn State. It felt like home."