STATE COLLEGE — Evan Galimberti wore black dress shoes to school Wednesday.
The polished shoes stood out even in State College High School’s crowded hallways.
Galimberti’s shoe size is 17, a large number symbolizing why Penn State has reserved him a spot on future football rosters.
After mulling Division I-AA offers — and receiving a late feeler from Division I-A Temple — Galimberti decided to continue adding weight to his 6-foot-5, 255-pound frame at Penn State, where he will join the program as a preferred walk-on in the summer.
One look at Galimberti’s feet suggests he harbors significant growth potential.
“He might not have the dimensions of an offensive linemen quite yet,” State College coach Al Wolski said. “But he will lift and be fed well when he gets over there, so I think he may surprise people.”
Penn State recruited Galimberti as an auxiliary linemen. In short, the staff views him as a player who could develop into a center, guard or tackle.
Galimberti played offensive and defensive tackle for the Little Lions. He handled both spots like a Division I prospect. Jack Haffner, who rushed for 2,000 yards in 2011, often plunged toward Galimberti’s side. As a senior, Galimberti cleared space for scatbacks Andrew Kelly and Ebrahim Britton, powerful fullback Ryan Goeke and slick quarterback Patrick Irwin.
In the first half of last season’s District 6-9 Class AAAA final victory over DuBois, Galimberti collected three sacks. A decade of disrupting of offenses likely ended when Galimberti finalized his college plans during a signing day ceremony at the North Building.
Wolski lauded Galimberti’s athletic ability. At one point last season, State College’s staff considered using Galimberti at tight end.
“He has real soft hands,” Wolski said. “If we could have afforded to play him at tight end, we would have done that a little bit. I think there’s potential in that position.”
Penn State isn’t actively seeking additional tight ends. The Nittany Lions will begin 2013 with six scholarship tight ends. The group includes fellow incoming freshman Adam Breneman, one of the nation’s top recruits.
Coach Bill O’Brien and his staff, which includes energetic strength and conditioning coach Craig Fitzgerald, needs Galimberti to grow because scholarship reductions created by NCAA sanctions could threaten the program’s offensive line depth.
“The process is starting right now,” Galimberti said. “We are in the weight room every day, trying to get bigger. Hopefully by the time I get there, I can be 265 or 270 pounds and then gain weight from there in their weight room. I know Fitz will put some pounds on me.”
Unlike many high school seniors, Galimberti is spending the winter preparing for a game. A Pennsylvania Scholastic Football Coaches Association committee chose Galimberti to represent Pennsylvania against Maryland in the Big 33 Classic on June 15. The selection further solidified Galimberti’s status as one of the state’s top offensive line prospects.
“That was great news,” he said. “I was really surprised and honored. It’s a big deal and I’m really going to take that seriously. I want to get a win for Pennsylvania. It’s definitely a good opportunity to see what that college experience is going to be like because you are coming in and meeting a new group of guys.”
Some of the schools pursuing Galimberti, including Division I-AA Penn, Princeton, Holy Cross and Wofford, offered opportunities for early playing time. But Galimberti said playing for Penn State developed into a goal when his family moved to State College before he entered elementary school.
“From that day on, my goal was to run out of the tunnel,” he said.
Galimberti’s presence will give Penn State five former State College players on its 105-man roster. Haffner, Alex Kenney, Matt Baney and Kevin DiSanto are currently on the team.
One of Galimberti’s high school teammates also announced his college plans Wednesday. Darian Herncane, a talented safety/wide receiver, will play college baseball at Division I Binghamton University.
Herncane said he spoke with multiple colleges about football options. But he didn’t receive any serious offers.
He will play outfield for the Bearcats. Pitt, Virginia Tech and Maryland were among the other Division I programs to express interest in Herncane.
“It just came down to where I thought I would get a good education while furthering my baseball career and possibly play at the professional level,” he said. “It was a nice campus. I enjoyed my visit up there and I felt like it was the best choice for me.”
Notes: Seven other Centre County athletes announced their college decisions in ceremonies Wednesday. State College’s Lauren Bonness (Michigan State), Kayla Klaus (Slippery Rock), Caroline Moore (Sacred Heart) and Taylor Meily (Delaware) will play college field hockey. State College’s Liz Browne will swim at East Carolina and Jenna Altomare has decided to play basketball at Kutztown. Bellefonte’s Mitchell Smith will run track and cross country at Lock Haven.