Rick O'Brien: Great Valley's Geiss no stranger to Penn State

Chris Geiss will be a preferred walk-on with the Nittany Lions this fall. PAT GEISS
Chris Geiss will be a preferred walk-on with the Nittany Lions this fall. PAT GEISS
Posted: February 04, 2013

On freshman orientation day at Penn State, Great Valley's Chris Geiss could easily skip the suggested tour around campus.

His father, Robert, was a member of the school's band, and his mother, Pat, played lacrosse for the Nittany Lions. They passed their love of all that is State College along to their son.

"Ever since I was born, I've gone to at least one game each season," Chris Geiss said. "It's almost like it's my second home."

In realizing one of his childhood dreams, the 6-foot-3, 190-pound senior will soon be spending ample time at Beaver Stadium. He is ticketed for Penn State as a preferred walk-on.

At Great Valley, Geiss flourished as a dual-threat quarterback. The position he will play for the Nittany Lions is still up in the air.

"They recruited me as an 'athlete,' " he said. "If it's not quarterback, I might be a wide receiver. There's also a chance I could see time on special teams."

Last season, while directing a pistol spread-option offense, Geiss threw for 1,200 yards and ran for 1,100. The Patriots finished 6-5 overall and 3-3 in the Ches-Mont League American Conference.

"Our goal going into the year was to make the playoffs," Geiss said. "We fell just short of that. But I think we were the first Great Valley team in a while to put up six wins."

In a 26-12 win over Oxford on Sept. 28, Geiss carried 23 times for 252 yards and two touchdowns. He scored on second-half darts of 81 and 25 yards.

"In this offense, it was about reading and reacting," he said. "If I saw an open gap, I would just take off."

The 18-year-old saw part-time duty at cornerback. Against Sun Valley on Nov. 2, while filling in for an injured teammate, he returned two fourth-quarter interceptions for scores in a 55-26 romp.

Last June, Geiss stood out at a showcase event for quarterbacks in East Petersburg, Lancaster County. With his accuracy and ability to throw on the run, he was the winner of the competition between junior and senior players.

Also at the camp, run by Cedar Cliff coach Jim Cantafio, were five-star prospect Christian Hackenberg, of Virginia's Fork Union Military Academy, Downingtown East's Kyle Lauletta, and Methacton's Brandon Bossard.

The 6-4, 220-pound Hackenberg, ranked as the top pro-style QB in the country by Rivals.com, is expected to officially commit to Penn State on Wednesday's national signing day, the first day football recruits can sign a letter of intent to colleges.

"You can see why he's ranked as high as he is," Geiss said of the Northeastern Pennsylvania native. "He's a big dude, athletic, and his passes are strong and accurate."

Geiss, who played running back and linebacker in youth football, received varying degrees of interest from several Division I-AA programs, including James Madison, Villanova, and William and Mary. None offered a scholarship.

"I really have no idea why nothing came of it," he said. "They all seemed very interested. I kept waiting, but nothing happened. That's one of the reasons why I jumped at the opportunity Penn State was giving me."

Geiss is a reserve forward for Great Valley's basketball squad. The Patriots were 19-0 going into Saturday night's nonleague matchup against Penn Wood.

"We're enjoying the ride," he said. "I've been on the same team with most of these guys since grade school."

Come spring, in track and field, the Malvern resident will be part of the Patriots' 4x100 relay team and, maybe, throw the javelin. He plans to major in economics or finance at Penn State.

Recruiting trail. Unionville's Tom Pancoast, a dual-threat quarterback and defensive back, will also join the Nittany Lions as a preferred walk-on. A 1,127-yard rusher last season, he is projected to be a safety. . . . Haverford School's Sema'j Reed, a 6-7, 285-pound offensive tackle, has committed to Buffalo. Teammate Chris Morgan, a multipurpose standout, is headed to Colgate. He is expected to play free safety for the Raiders. . . . Archbishop Wood center Fran Walsh, Central Bucks East running back Vince Thompson Jr., and Episcopal Academy cornerback Matt Rushton will play at Villanova as preferred walk-ons. . . . Other preferred walk-ons from area schools are La Salle two-way lineman Tom Spiteri (Colgate) and Spring-Ford two-way end R.J. Sheldon (Bucknell). . . . Downingtown West offensive tackle Elijah Wilkinson, Neumann-Goretti tight end Sharif Custis, and Pennsbury fullback Daquan Mack will play at Massachusetts. The 6-5, 325-pound Wilkinson last week chose the Minutemen over runner-up Coastal Carolina. . . . Pottsgrove quarterback Tory Hudgins, who ran for 2,794 yards and 51 TDs over the last two seasons, is headed to Bucknell. . . . George Washington defensive back Marquise Edwards and Souderton two-way back Anthony Williams will play at Shippensburg. . . . Penn State assistant Ron Vanderlinden was at Washington Friday to check in on some of the school's juniors, including 6-4 wideout Rasheed Black and running back Ken Everage. . . . The next stop for La Salle linebacker Trent Simmons is Bloomsburg.

Contact Rick O'Brien

at robrien@phillynews.com. Follow

on Twitter @ozoneinq.

Read his blog, "The O'Zone,"

at www.philly.com/ozone.

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