Jeff Anderson was one of the most highly recruited prospects in New Jersey last year, but his father told him to scratch Rutgers off his list early.
"I hesitate to make any decision with my kids," Dick Anderson said. "But I made this one because I didn't want to force him to make a decision involving his father and family."
Anderson still has strong ties to Penn State. He was a starting tackle for the Nittany Lions from 1961 to 1963 and played for two Gator Bowl teams. He returned to his alma matar as offensive coordinator before accepting the Rutgers job in 1984.
One of the first prospects Anderson contacted after arriving in New Brunsick, N.J., was Darryl Washington, a kid from State College.
Washington used to hang out at the Anderson household when he was growing up. He was close friends with two of Anderson's children.
"I've known Darryl since Little League," Anderson said. "I even tried to recruit him after I took the job at Rutgers. I'm really happy things worked out for him."
Washington has become one of the saving graces of the Nittany Lions' improving defense. The lanky 6-3 senior linebacker moved into the starting lineup three weeks ago after All-America candidate Trey Bauer suffered a pinched nerve in his neck against Cincinnati. He has emerged as the team's leading tackler.
Washington had 10 solo tackles during Penn State's convincing 27-17 victory over Boston College two weeks ago. He had 14 more last Saturday as the 14th- ranked Lions (4-1) ran their record to 4-1 with a 27-13 victory over Temple.
"I'm just happy for the opportunity to finally show what I can do," Washington said. "It's been pretty much of a frustrating career for me. I came in here knowing I would have to wait, at least a year. As it turned out, I had to wait four until I got my shot.
"I spent most of my first two years on the foreign teams. Last year, I played on the special teams. This year, I feel more a part of the team. I feel more accepted."
Washington has dreamed of this moment ever since he became a rabid Penn State fan in fourth grade. Washington grew up just down the road from campus. He used to work parking cars at Beaver Stadium on game days.
"I saw a lot of home games when I was younger," Washington said. "When I got to high school, I kept hearing all this stuff about Penn State, Penn State. I was trying to do what I could for State College High, but Penn State got all the attention. I guess I became kind of jealous."
Washington was a star quarterback for the Little Lions. He was selected to play for the West team in the Big 33 Game and was recruited by both West Virginia and Rutgers.
In the end, he couldn't leave home.
"A lot of State College kids go away, then come home after a year," Paterno said. "With Darryl, that wasn't the case. I think he always wanted to come here. We had what he wanted to study and he felt comfortable here. I didn't have to sit around, hold his hand and tell him what a great place Penn State was."
Paterno recruited Washington as a strong safety but he was too slow to
break to the ball. Washington shifted to outside linebacker, but he wasn't strong enough to play the big tight ends.
Washington has settled in at inside linebacker, though, despite the fact he weighs only 195 pounds.
"Granted, I'm underweight," Washington said. "But I've been making the same plays a bigger linebacker would make. I think Temple tried to run at me more than B.C. and I feel I held my own."
Washington has proven Penn State has depth at a position that could have been decimated after Pete Giftopoulos and Bauer were injured in early season. Both Bauer and Giftopoulos should be back against Rutgers (4-1).
"Trey is the leader of our defense," Washington said. "If he comes back, I'll probably go back to the same status I had before."
Whatever happens, Washington has earned the right to call himself a card- carrying member of Linebacker U.
"Somebody asked me the other day how it felt to start two games at Linebacker U.," Washington said. "It really is special when you stop and think about all the great ones who have played here in the past. It's pretty much an honor."