State College High School graduate Kevin DiSanto has gone from grooming bunkers and setting pins to kicking for a Big Ten team.
Penn State added DiSantos name to its official roster Monday morning. Before nailing his fifth tryout in two years, DiSanto, a member of a State College team that reached the 2009 PIAA Class AAAA final, was working on the maintenance staff at the Penn State Golf Courses.
DiSanto auditioned for Penn State coaches on Aug. 10. Six days later, he learned the coaching staff wanted him to join the team.
He was actually jumping when he got off the phone, DiSantos mother, Patti, said in a telephone interview Monday. I think he almost hit his head on our ceiling, and we have a high ceiling. He was yelling and screaming. It was a little bit of a pinch me type of thing. He was wondering if it was ever going to happen.
DiSanto, a business major with three years of eligibility remaining, graduated from State College in 2010. His signature game as a senior was a three-field-goal effort in a critical Mid-Penn Conference victory over Harrisburg. Multiple Division I schools, including Rutgers, Minnesota, South Florida and Ohio State, were recruiting DiSanto.
But Patti called Penn State her sons dream school. His father, Dale, works as the Universitys executive director of development.
DiSanto participated in his first tryout in the fall of 2010, and Patti said Kevin performed well, hitting 30 kicks, including some 50-yarders. But then-assistant coach Mike McQueary told DiSanto to return in the spring when he perfected a two-step kicking approach. A minor lower-body injury nagged DiSanto in his second tryout, so he kicked for the coaching staff again last fall.
The staff told DiSanto to prepare for another tryout, and he went through a variety of non-kicking drills last winter. NCAA rules prohibited DiSanto from actually using a ball in his fourth tryout.
Bill OBriens hiring changed the personnel on Penn States staff, and DiSanto wasnt sure if he would receive another tryout. But DiSanto had a fluke encounter with OBrien while volunteering on the 12th hole of the White Course at this summers Coaches vs. Cancer golf tournament.
OBrien, who was playing in the charity event, told DiSanto to prepare for a September tryout. After the meeting, Patti said her son sent a Thank You note to the coach. DiSanto inserted a kicking resume and highlight video with the message. OBrien forwarded the email to tight ends coach John Strollo, one of his assistants who works with the special teams.
Strollo contacted DiSanto shortly after starting kicker/punter Anthony Fera transferred to Texas earlier this month. Patti said the tryout resembled the one in 2010, with DiSanto converting 30 kicks of various distances.
DiSanto then returned to his summer job and waited until he got the call. He joins front-runner Sam Ficken and Matt Marcincin to give the Nittany Lions three kickers.
Despite not playing football, DiSanto kicked regularly throughout the past two years. Former Penn State kicker Kevin Kelly and punter Jeremy Boone are among his training partners. He also has worked with former NFL kicker Chris Bahr.
Its kind of like a Rudy story, Patti said. He kept working and never gave up.
The left-footed DiSanto hails from a high school program known for a strong kicking game. Recent Penn State kickers Collin Wagner and David Kimball are State College graduates. DiSanto attended multiple kicking camps and worked closely with State College assistant coach and kicking guru Mike Snyder throughout high school.
He has had a lot of positive influences, Patti said.
DiSanto is the third member of State Colleges 2009 team to join the Nittany Lions. Sophomore Alex Kenney, who was part of DiSantos high school graduating class, is competing for a starting job at wide receiver. Freshman running back Jack Haffner joined the program as a preferred walk-on earlier this summer.
Linebacker joins team
Penn State has landed another last-minute recruit.
Gary Wooten, a linebacker from Hialeah, Fla., will join the Nittany Lions. Wooten is part of the 2012 recruiting class. He sat out last season after receiving interest from Vanderbilt, Arkansas and Washington State as a high school senior. The 6-foot-3 Wooten had 72 tackles and 12 sacks for Hialeah High School in 2010.
The Nittany Lions added Arizona linebacker Brennan Franklin to the recruiting class last month.
Wooten is Penn States second commitment from Florida this summer. Northview (Fla.) safety Neiko Robinson, a 2013 recruit, orally committed to the program in June.
Big Ten network analysts attended Monday mornings practice to gather footage for its Penn State preview. The show debuts at 10 p.m. tonight. ... Three members of the 2013 recruiting class quarterback Christian Hackenberg (No. 42), tight end Adam Breneman (No. 56) and defensive lineman Garrett Sickels (No. 65) are in the updated Rivals.com Top 100 recruiting rankings released Monday.
Guy Cipriano can be reached at 231-4643. Follow him on Twitter @cdtguy