Pollard: Recruiting process was 'big mess'

Posted: February 01, 2012

Jamil Pollard began with Penn State and ended with Penn State.

That doesn't mean there weren't twists, turns and a serious detour on his road from his early commitment to the Nittany Lions in May to signing his national letter of intent with Penn State on Wednesday in an auxiliary gymnasium at West Deptford High School.

"It was a big mess," Pollard said of his path to Penn State. "It wasn't anybody's fault but my own. I'm just glad it worked out."

The 6-foot-5, 280-pound Pollard, a two-time All-South Jersey selection by The Inquirer, is projected as a defensive lineman at Penn State. He's one of the top prospects in new coach Bill O'Brien's first recruiting class, and one of just two players in the class to carry a four-star rating by Rivals (the other is wide receiver Eugene Lewis, of Wyoming Valley West High School in Luzerne County).

"He has all the potential in the world," West Deptford coach Clyde Folsom said of Pollard.

Pollard committed to Penn State near the end of his junior year. He said he always loved the program, was enamored with legendary former coach Joe Paterno, and made a deep connection with defensive line coach Larry Johnson.

"I just knew it was the right place for me," said Pollard, who had made an unofficial visit to Penn State to see spring practices in 2011.

Penn State officials thought Pollard was right for them, too - until they saw his grades after his junior year.

"They dropped me," Pollard said of Penn State's decision last summer to withdraw its offer. "There was a lot of heartache, a lot of tears. But I didn't blame anyone but myself. I had set myself up for failure."

Pollard said Penn State's withdrawal of its offer was a "wake-up call" that he needed to improve his focus on his academics.

"I knew I had to work harder," Pollard said. "Coach Folsom set me up with a plan. I stayed after school. I studied harder for tests. I knew I could do better if I set my mind to it."

Folsom said Pollard made significant academic improvement but needs to maintain that trajectory for the rest of the school year.

"He's done much better in the classroom," Folsom said. "But he needs to continue to improve all the way through June."

On the football field, Pollard was a dominant two-way lineman who led West Deptford to an 11-1 record and the South Jersey Group 2 championship.

Pollard said he heard back from Penn State officials in early November. He said they noticed his academic improvement and re-submitted an offer.

Meanwhile, Penn State's program was rocked by the sex-abuse scandal related to former assistant coach Jerry Sandusky that led to Paterno's dismissal.

"Through it all, I still loved Penn State," Pollard said. "It (the scandal) didn't bother me. I knew it was where I wanted to be."

Pollard made a recruiting visit to Boston College in December. He also heard from Nebraska, among other programs.

But on Dec. 29, Pollard re-committed to Penn State and interim coach Tom Bradley. He met O'Brien and Johnson, who has remained on the staff, during his official visit on the weekend of Jan. 13.

"It was one thing after another," said Pollard, who plans to major in communications. "It was just this series of events that seemed to spiral out of control. It was crazy.

"But I knew how I wanted it to end. I knew I wanted to end up at Penn State."

Contact staff writer Phil Anastasia at 856-779-3223, panastasia@phillynews.com, or @PhilAnastasia on Twitter. Read his blog, "Jersey Side Sports," at www.philly.com/jerseysidesports


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