Penn State Football

Why Penn State's 2 local stars are ready to 'show out' when football starts

State College wide receiver Brandon Clark played in the annual Big 33 Game in June.
State College wide receiver Brandon Clark played in the annual Big 33 Game in June.

The stands were empty at Landis Field, friends and family had filtered off the turf, and the grounds crew began its cleanup, leaving only a few stragglers still soaking in the moment. After the Big 33 Classic trophy presentation and the selfie-filled postgame chaos that ensued, State College head coach Matt Lintal finally tracked down Brandon Clark, shook his hand and hugged the 6-foot-4 wideout.

Lintal whispered something to his captain, and the future Nittany Lion smiled. "I'll be back every home game," Clark said assuredly. "I'll be there."

He and State College lineman Collin De Boef will be close enough. There's no doubt about that. Clark and De Boef — cogs in State College's offense the past few years — are days away from joining the program up the road. The Penn State preferred walk-ons' move-in date is Sunday, and they both expressed excitement over the next chapter.

But before leaving the high school ranks, De Boef and Clark had one last game with Lintal, an assistant on Big 33's Team Pennsylvania. It was a unique opportunity all three cherished, and it was further confirmation for Lintal that his Little Lions are ready to become Nittany Lions.

"This is something special," Lintal said, his eyes welling a bit. "It's a couple kids that I have so much respect for. ...I'm going to miss the heck out of them." And the Nittany Lion staff will welcome the duo with open arms.

Now, neither are expected to make an immediate impact. De Boef said James Franklin and offensive line coach Matt Limegrover set a "two- or three-year clock" until he starts to contribute, while it was suggested to Clark that he put on 25 pounds and become a tight end. But those plans aren't going to restrict Clark and De Boef.

The 6-foot-6, 275-pound center wants to knock that countdown clock from two or three years to one or two. How can he do that while redshirting in 2018? "Working my tail off and showing them that I'm someone who they don't think I am," De Boef said.

On the field — if Saturday's Big 33 was any indication — De Boef will play to his strengths, primarily his quickness off the ball. The lightest lineman on either roster is eager to attack the Lasch Building weight room over the next year, but he intends to maintain the agility that allowed him to get to the second level and dominate Team Maryland.

"Coach says I'm pretty athletic, and I take that to heart. I'm fast out there and smart," said De Boef, who doesn't turn 18 until late July. "I might be young, but hopefully I can make people not think that anymore and just hit somebody."

De Boef, who played every position on the offensive line in his time at State College, also brings versatility and an advanced understanding of the game. "He's one of the smartest football players I've ever coached," Lintal added. "He's a kid who sees the big picture even when he's out there."

Lintal said Clark will make his presence felt from the get-go, too. The State College coach marveled at the 195-pound pass-catcher's work ethic, claiming Clark "burns more calories in a day than I do in a week."

"The way Brandon practices is going to get him seen and get attention in a hurry," the Little Lions coach said. "He does not want to hide in the back and on the sideline. He wants to be involved in any capacity. He will go punt, kick, punt return, play scout receiver, play d-end. He'll do anything to help the team be better."

That willingness was on display at Landis Field. Due to an injury, Clark filled in at punter. It wasn't something new for him; he was State College's full-time punter in 2017. But those unfamiliar with Clark were surprised by his unique skill set and readiness to use it.

When asked about that repertoire, Clark's father said simply, "He's a much better athlete than I was." And that means something coming from Bruce Clark — a two-time All-American defensive tackle and Lombardi Award winner at Penn State.

The elder Clark, who sits fourth on Penn State's all-time tackles for loss list, is "really looking forward to watching (Brandon) make his mark at Penn State."

"I'm dying to see where Penn State plays him," Bruce Clark said wearing a blue Nittany Lions visor, grinning alongside his son at the 40-yard line. "His first love is wide receiver, but without playing basketball and track, he's going to gain some weight. Look at me."

Added Lintal: "If they want him to put on 25 pounds, he'll do it. He'll do anything you ask of him." And same goes for De Boef.

Lintal has watched the two Little Lions blossom over the past two years. He confidently started De Boef at guard, tackle and center. He witnessed Clark snare 16 touchdowns as a senior en route to all-state honors. Now he'll look on as they prove themselves to a different coaching staff.

Before leaving Landis Field, the State College coach admitted he might shed a tear saying goodbye. But when he walked along the track and out into the surrounding parking lot — while Clark and De Boef took photos with fellow future Nittany Lions — the coach kept his composure. He knew they are prepared for what's ahead.

"I'm definitely going to go out there and show out," Clark said. "I'm going to show them that I want to be there."