Andrew Nelson column: Why I chose PSU

NittanyNation recently asked four-star offensive tackle Andrew Nelson (Hershey, Pa./Hershey) to explain, in his own words, why he decided to commit to Penn State. The below article is written entirely by Nelson without any help from ESPN.

A number of high school football players, through hard work and dedication, earn the opportunity to be recruited by the nation’s top football universities during their high school football careers. I, by the grace of God, was one of those players.

For many, the recruiting process includes trips all over the nation to visit universities, compiling lists of pros and cons for every school, and many hours spent with parents deciding what’s best for the student-athlete’s future. While some of this went on during my recruiting process, the decision of which university I would choose came much easier for me than for most recruits. My decision to go to Penn State was influenced by many things; a great education, a quality coaching staff, and relationships are three areas that were unmatched at Penn State.

First is the education. While some athletes might look past the degree, my parents instilled in me that football will end someday for everybody -- and when that day comes, it’s what you know that will make you successful. So, during my recruiting, I always tried to keep my eye on the prize, which is the value of education.

Through the Penn State recruiting process, it was easy to see that education came first. I still remember back to my Junior Day at Penn State when we sat and talked with the academic advisors at PSU longer than we did with any of the coaches. That’s something I really appreciate about Penn State; it knows that the education comes first. At a highly esteemed institution such at Penn State, the degree I will walk away with is almost priceless. So, once I found out they offered my major, kinesiology, I knew the education would be unmatched.

Second is the coaching staff, another category where I believe Penn State is unmatched. When it came to the coaching staff, I focused on which staff could best develop me as a player and, more importantly, a young man of character. If there was any staff that could develop me best as a player and into possible NFL material, it is Penn State. Coach [Bill] O’Brien and Coach Mac [McWhorter] have come from very highly esteemed football programs before coming to Penn State, so I know that they’re experts on what it takes to make me the best.

However, more important is how this staff will develop me as a young man of integrity, and that comes from everyone on the staff. Many people say that the 2013 recruiting class for Penn State has such high character for still wanting to go there even after the sanctions. Well, I feel like that all started with the coaching staff that wanted to come in here in the midst of adversity and rebuild this football program back to an elite program. Every one of the men on this staff are men of high character that realize what’s important in life and will never back down from a challenge. I respect them so much for that and I hope that when I leave this program I will have obtained that kind of character.

Finally, relationships are important, and this is actually something I have learned from Coach O’Brien. In life it comes down to the people that care about you and the relationships you have built with those people. I genuinely feel that at Penn State the coaches were making sure I was the right fit and I would benefit as much as the program.

The first relationship I had a chance to build was with Coach [Larry] Johnson. I first met Coach Johnson at a football camp the summer before my junior year. Coach Johnson is one of the greatest leaders I have ever met in my life. It really means something to me that Coach Johnson was the first person to evaluate me and encouraged me, telling me that if I worked hard, I had Penn State football potential. The relationship I have developed with him is one that I hope will last a lifetime. In a much shorter time, I’ve also developed great relationships with Coach O’Brien and Coach McWhorter.

When I first met Coach O’Brien, I thought I would be intimidated by a guy who had such great success in the NFL, but instead he quickly put me at ease with his down-to-earth and honest demeanor. I always feel like he’s telling me like it is and that he truly believes in me. As far as Coach Mac goes, what can I tell you, his southern hospitality just jumps out every time I speak with him. On unofficial visits to Penn State games, he and his wife Becky had me laughing all the time and made me feel at home.

Besides these three coaches, all of the Penn State coaching staff spent time with me and all of them made me feel that they were genuinely excited about me becoming part of the Penn State football family.