Adam Breneman had plans to finish his senior season at Cedar Cliff on the highest of notes.
Having already committed to Penn State in March 2012, Breneman was looking forward to his final year playing football and basketball for the Colts in Camp Hill. His final games on the gridirons and hard wood gymnasium floors would be his farewell seasons in each sport. They’d also be his last tuneups for the challenges that awaited in Happy Valley.
But Breneman’s high school athletic career was cut short. Three months after one of the country’s top recruits verbally committed to Penn State, Breneman went down during a 7-on-7 practice session in June, victim of a torn ACL in his right knee.
One of his first conversations was with Penn State coach Bill O’Brien. They discussed the possibility — and the advantages — of enrolling early at Penn State.
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Not only would Breneman get a chance to meet some of his soon-to-be teammates and develop off-field relationships, he could start sooner with classes and get an early start on trying to pick up the offense with film study. He also could rehab with the football program’s staff led by Tim Bream.
“Obviously a torn ACL you wouldn’t wish on anyone but I was forced to make the most of a bad situation and I think I did that,” Breneman said. “Coming in early was a benefit to tearing my ACL.”
And he made progress.
By the start of spring practice, Breneman was running and practicing with the team. Fitted with a brace and a red jersey, Breneman was held out of contact drills but was able to catch passes and run routes. He was also able to work out and pick the brains of his teammates, primarily fellow tight ends Kyle Carter, Jesse James and Matt Lehman.
“Being able to go through spring practice helped me a lot and the understanding of the terminology really, it’s like learning a different language,” Breneman said. “You have to learn all the words and the meanings of everything. I’ve got it down pretty good now.”
Breneman was able to play when Penn State opened the season against Syracuse at MetLife Stadium.
It didn’t take long for him to make an impact. He stopped Ritchy Desir in his tracks after a 10-yard gain on Syracuse’s first punt return of the season.
Since then, Breneman’s been able to get involved nearly every game plan. He’s played in all but Penn State’s loss to Indiana and has nine catches for 84 yards on the season.
“He’s a great kid, practices hard, practices hurt,” O’Brien said. “He’s had some ankle issues and foot issues this year, and he’s practiced with it and done a nice job. Hopefully he’ll keep contributing over the last three games here, and we can continue to try to get him the ball and help him in that area, too.”
Breneman, who was used to being one of the biggest, strongest players during his high school days, has also improved his overall strength. At 6-foot-4, 235 pounds, Breneman realized he had a lot of work to do in the weight room when he first arrived on campus and met James and Lehman.
James towers at 6-foot-7, 257 pounds while Lehman, who’s since been lost this season to an ACL tear, is 6-foot-6, 262 pounds.
“Obviously Jesse and Matt are two big human beings,” Breneman said. “That was definitely (a time) for me just to kind of realize that I had a long way to go.”
But Breneman has improved his strength. Although he caught just one pass against Minnesota, O’Brien said Breneman played one of his best games of the season.
At TCF Bank Stadium, Breneman was used primarily as a blocker and has lined up as a fullback in numerous packages this season.
“He had a great game against Minnesota,” quarterback Christian Hackenberg said. “It wasn’t only just receiving. It was blocking, it was the total package of what the tight ends are asked to do here. He’s just getting better each day. I’m really proud of him and have a lot of respect for Adam and his work ethic.”
A weekly football radio show that features former Penn State players Blair Thomas, Quintus McDonald and Skip Dreibelbis will give three military veterans the opportunity to visit the Lettermen’s Lounge at halftime of Saturday’s game.
The promotion is sponsored by ForeverLions.com, which broadcasts Fridays from 5 to 7 p.m. from Damon’s restaurant in State College and also before games. Veterans who have tickets to the game can register at the website for a drawing that will be held during the pregame show Saturday. Veterans also may call Dreibelbis at 280-1000 or email him at email@example.com with the subject line Lettermen & Vets.
Veterans will be asked to provide proof of military service.