About five years ago, David Corley sat down with an energetic James Franklin and tried to win him over with his passion and work ethic.
He failed. Mostly.
Five years ago, Franklin passed over Corley for the receivers job at Vanderbilt. Instead, Franklin opted for Josh Gattis — who stayed with him and followed him to Happy Valley before taking another assistant coaching job with Alabama last month.
But Franklin never forgot about Corley. And Corley earned his second chance with Franklin less than a month ago, when the Nittany Lions made his hiring official.
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“I interviewed for the same position I’m in right now when he was at Vandy,” said Corley, Penn State’s new receivers coach, during a conference call Wednesday. “That’s where I got introduced to Coach Franklin, really. ... He’s the same way in the interviews, and he’s looking for guys who can match that energy level. So it’s fun if that’s what you’re about — and that’s what I’m about.”
Franklin and Corley went their separate ways five years ago, but they never really fell out of touch. They’d see each other at conventions, stumble upon each other’s names from time to time and remained friendly acquaintances.
Gattis earned his first big break with Franklin, coaching stars like Jordan Matthews at Vanderbilt and moving on to develop Penn State receivers such as Chris Godwin and DaeSean Hamilton. Corley was forced to start on a smaller stage, moving up the ranks at William & Mary before latching on with UConn for three seasons and coaching the receivers at Army West Point last year.
Corley and Franklin didn’t know their paths would cross again. But when Mississippi State came calling to assistant coach Charles Huff, Franklin came calling to Corley. And when Gattis moved on to Alabama, moving Corley to wide receivers coach just made sense. Corley’s addition seemed like a natural fit.
“He fits a lot of the characteristics that I really like,” Franklin said. “He’s aggressive, he’s smart, went to an academic school, is passionate about coaching. Has got a background, played quarterback.”
Corley said he’s only just starting to form relationships with the Nittany Lions’ receivers. He sat down with the likes of Juwan Johnson, worked on some conditioning aspects of the offseason and discussed their personalities with other staff members.
“I thought the first day was awesome,” added Corley, who’ll also recruit areas of Georgia (north of Atlanta), the Tidewater/Virginia Beach areas and northern New Jersey.
Corley’s path to Penn State started after graduating from William & Mary in 2002. He spent three seasons coaching there with former Franklin protege, and former Penn State defensive coordinator, Bob Shoop. This is the first time in his career where he’s been involved with a Power Five program.
This job, with all its demands and perks, is something he’s wanted for a long time. And even if he didn’t get Franklin’s receivers job the first go-round, he’s grateful for the opportunity this time around.
He said he wanted to take the job here to be around someone he respects, someone he can learn from. “At the same time, this is Penn State,” Corley said, letting out a big laugh. “The opportunity to come and join a program like this — and Coach Franklin has done a great job building this program to what it is — I’m looking forward to helping him take it to another level.”