Tommy Friberg — a Penn State fan from birth — could have stayed home, picked the Nittany Lions and played in Beaver Stadium as a preferred walk-on. Instead, the record-setting State College quarterback walked into school Monday morning sporting a Michigan sweatshirt.
“That was the first time I’ve ever had a real positive connotation with the maize and blue,” State College football coach Matt Lintal said with a laugh. “But I’m thrilled for Tommy.”
And Friberg is thrilled to call himself a Wolverine. The senior signal-caller announced Sunday evening that he accepted a preferred walk-on offer at Michigan, a decision that frankly goes against the grain. Friberg also had a preferred walk-on offer at Penn State and interest from Ohio State and Pittsburgh.
Friberg could have followed in the footsteps of so many State High standouts before him. Teammate and four-star cornerback Keaton Ellis signed with the Nittany Lions in December. Walk-on offensive lineman Collin De Boef chose Penn State in 2018. Little Lions like Jordan Norwood, Nate Stupar and Larry Johnson made the jump from Memorial Field to Beaver Stadium with success.
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But after visiting Ann Arbor on Saturday, Friberg said he “had to take” Michigan’s offer.
“I fell in love with Michigan,” Friberg told the CDT. “I loved the feel. I loved the tradition of Michigan. I love the school itself. It’s really competitive academically. And I could just see myself there.”
Soon enough, Friberg’s vision will become reality. The 6-foot-5, 200-pound passer said he isn’t sure exactly when he will enroll at Michigan. But State College’s all-time leader in passing yards is eying up summer classes in Ann Arbor.
Speaking on Monday afternoon, Friberg had to stop and collect his thoughts when discussing the timeline of what led him to becoming a Wolverine, which was understandable. This process has been a bit of a whirlwind for the Little Lion.
After being recruited by Patriot League and Ivy League programs for much of the football season, bigger schools came calling in January. Akron coaches visited State College recently but never offered a scholarship. Ryan Day and Ohio State wanted the quarterback to visit Columbus in hopes he would entertain a PWO opportunity with the Buckeyes. James Franklin and Penn State offered on Jan. 15, and Friberg visited last Wednesday.
However, Friberg’s relationship with the Michigan coaching staff was strong. The first Wolverine staff member to reach out to him was Chris Bryant, Michigan’s director of high school relations. Later, he had several conversations with wide receivers coach Ben McDaniels, brother of New England Patriots offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels. Lintal emailed former Penn State assistant and current Michigan offensive coordinator Josh Gattis on Friberg’s behalf, and the quarterback was impressed by Jim Harbaugh following the Wolverines’ PWO visit day over the weekend.
Ultimately, it came down to Penn State and Michigan. And the kid who threw for 4,324 yards and won 22 games down the road from Beaver Stadium, whose parents had Penn State season tickets all his life, chose a path that surprised a few people.
“Ever since I was little, I was wearing a Penn State jersey,” Friberg said. “I’ve always been a fan. So, yeah, it’s different.”
Added Lintal: “He and his family felt really comfortable there. Not that they didn’t here in town, but I think he wanted a different challenge, to be off on his own and have that experience outside of State College.”
Thankfully for Friberg, he hasn’t been on the receiving end of rude tweets or nasty exchanges in the State High hallway. A couple of classmates have joked around about him not picking Penn State, but nothing crazy. Friberg said Ellis was “bummed” that he went with Michigan, but that all of his former teammates were supportive of his decision.
Now that he made his choice, Friberg is focused on the opportunity ahead of him at Michigan. The quarterback’s first goal is to crack the travel roster, which won’t be easy to do from the get-go. Shea Patterson is the returning starter, while former four-star prospects Dylan McCaffrey and Joe Milton are the projected second- and third-stringers, respectively. Brandon Peters, Max Wittwer, Michael Sessa and 2019 blue-chipper Cade McNamara are also slated to compete for reps.
But if he defies the odds and makes the travel roster for next year’s Penn State-Michigan game in Happy Valley, Friberg said it would be “an awesome experience” — one he would never forget.
“Playing in my hometown, seeing all my friends at the game, that would be a really cool experience,” the hometown quarterback said. “And playing at Beaver Stadium, that’s such a cool atmosphere. That would be wild.”