St. Joseph's Prep QB Mornhinweg commits to Penn State

Skyler Mornhinweg is entering his senior season at St. Joe's Prep.
Skyler Mornhinweg is entering his senior season at St. Joe's Prep. (File photo)
Posted: July 20, 2011

Call it a leap of faith.

St. Joseph's Prep senior-to-be quarterback Skyler Mornhinweg made possibly the most important decision of his young life yesterday, announcing that he would join the Penn State football program for the 2012 football season.

He did so with the knowledge that legendary Nittany Lions coach Joe Paterno, who will turn 85 in December, is in the final year of his contract, and there is absolutely no guarantee he will be running the show a year or so hence.

But Mornhinweg, son of Eagles offensive coordinator Marty Mornhinweg, is convinced he'll spend all or part of his college career under JoePa, and, if not, that his Happy Valley experience still will be shaped by the legacy the old master has crafted as he prepares for his 62nd season with the Nits, and 46th as head coach.

Asked if he was prepared to play the waiting game at a school where four highly recruited quarterbacks, all with at least 2 years eligibility remaining, figure to be ahead of him whenever he arrives on campus - although three of those QBs have hinted at one time or another that they might transfer - Mornhinweg said, "Coach Paterno will know what to do. That's his decision."

A 3-year starter at safety and a 2-year starter at quarterback, his preferred position, the 6-3, 215-pound Mornhinweg was praised by his St. Joe's Prep coach, Gabe Infante, as one of those special players that comes around all too infrequently.

"Sky is the most talented quarterback I have ever coached," Infante said during a teleconference in which Mornhinweg announced his intention to become a Lion. "He is a prolific passer, probably one of the greatest high school passers I have seen in my 14 years of coaching high school football.

"He is as accomplished an athlete as I've been around - a natural leader an and incredible competitor."

Premier prospects are identified earlier and earlier these days, and Mornhinweg was on more than a few big-time colleges' radar even as a freshman, when he announced his intention to attend Stanford.

Perhaps that verbal commitment would have held up had Cardinal coach Jim Harbaugh not departed after last season to take the head coaching position with the NFL's San Francisco 49ers, essentially putting Mornhinweg back on the market. He also gave consideration to Tennessee, Alabama and Illinois before choosing Penn State.

"There are many great schools and programs I was fortunate enough to take a look at," he said. "But for many good reasons, I've decided to commit to Penn State. Some of those reasons are the championship football tradition and its excellent academics . . . pretty much the way coach Paterno [guides] players through the whole program. They set unique values for themselves."

Mornhinweg - whose recruitment primarily was handled by linebackers coach Ron Vanderlinden - might have begun leaning toward Penn State after he attended another 100,000-plus-attendance game in Beaver Stadium last season, and that positive attitude intensified following a second visit in June, when he spent time with Joe Paterno, quarterbacks coach Jay Paterno, offensive coordinator Galen Hall and several PSU players, including fullback Michael Zordich and redshirt sophomore guard Mark Arcidiacono, a St. Joe's Prep product.

After completing 98 of 204 passes for 1,543 yards and 18 touchdowns as a sophomore, while rushing for 362 yards and five TDs, Mornhinweg's production dropped off slightly as a junior, during which the Prep went 4-7. He completed 110 of 229 passes for 13 TDs, but did so while playing at "about 80 percent" with a right shoulder injury that has since healed.

Infante said the true measure of Mornhinweg's leadership ability is the fact he's led the Hawks to six come-from-behind, fourth-quarter victories in his two seasons at quarterback.

Mornhinweg, whom recruiting services also rate highly as a free safety, said today's announcement will allow him to focus more on St. Joe's Prep's upcoming season. He also isn't concerned that he might eventually change positions at Penn State, where today's quarterback is sometimes tomorrow's defensive back, linebacker or tight end.

"It's possible," he said of the future that has yet to unfold. "I'm a quarterback at heart, though."

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