ORLANDO, Fla. — Jayson Oweh revealed his decision to play football for Penn State on Thursday night in front of a national television audience during the Under Armour All-America Game. Nearly two weeks after secretly signing a letter of intent to attend the university, he can finally exhale.
Oweh admitted there was a level of anxiety to his fast-rising recruitment, which began less than a year ago.
“I’m indecisive, so I would go to [a school], do a lot of homework, ask them a lot of questions, they would tell me what I wanted to hear, then I’d go back on my laptop and search everything they told me,” he said.
Oweh, a 6-foot-5, 240-pound prospect, focused on Ohio State and Penn State during the final stretch of a frenzied process. After substantial internal debate and dialogue with his family, he told Land of 10 a final decision occurred Dec. 22.
Penn State opened college football’s inaugural early signing period Dec. 20 by securing 21 high school seniors, headlined by 5-star edge rusher Micah Parsons. Unknown to most, the Nittany Lions ended it with Oweh on board.
— Penn State Football (@PennStateFball) January 5, 2018
This development certainly didn’t come without a fight from Ohio State.
He traveled to Columbus three times between May and September, when the Buckeyes hosted him for an official visit. Urban Meyer then traveled to Blair Academy (Blairstown, N.J.) on Dec. 16 alongside Ohio State defensive coordinator Greg Schiano and defensive line coach Larry Johnson.
This trio attended his basketball game, and gave Oweh plenty to digest despite his leanings toward the Nittany Lions.
“It made it way more tough because at that point I was already set,” he said.
Penn State put itself in excellent position three days earlier with its final in-person recruiting pitch. James Franklin and defensive line coach Sean Spencer spent time with the Oweh family after checking in at Blair Academy.
Oweh appreciated the continued effort even after five trips to Penn State — more than any other school.
“Just the resiliency of them,” Oweh said. “They came to my school before that and I was with Franklin and Spencer. They met the whole school and everything, taking pictures. It was more family than business. We just didn’t talk about football.”
— Jayson Oweh (@JaysonOweh) December 14, 2017
Spencer played a pivotal role in this pursuit.
Along with his search for a respected engineering program, Oweh prioritized proven defensive line coaches. Though he secured 13 sacks in fewer than five full games as a senior, it was only his second football season and Oweh wants to be molded into the most dominant version of himself on the defensive front.
This placed Spencer and Johnson, who Oweh referred to as “a legend” upon receiving an Ohio State offer, in the cross-hairs.
“Coach Johnson is obviously GOAT. Greatest, but he’s older and that really affected me a lot,” Oweh said.
He claimed responsibility for this tweet Johnson sent out in December that addresed speculation about his longevity with the Buckeyes:
— Larry A. Johnson (@R2X_Rushmen1) December 15, 2017
“I was the one who made him tweet that,” Oweh said. “I was talking to him right before he sent it, then he said he was going to tweet it.”
While weighing options, he began to look toward a future in Spencer’s pack of “Wild Dogs”.
“A lot of people don’t understand — he’s good too, he’s just younger,” Oweh said. “Coach Johnson has just been in [college football] longer than him. [Spencer] knows how to interact with players and that’s a plus on his side. They both can develop.”
Earlier in the process, he described a burgeoning relationship with Spencer.
“He’s like that funny uncle,” Oweh said. “Whenever we talk he teaches me techniques about how to pass rush. I never really used my hands, I just used my speed, so he’s teaching me the Miyagi stuff – wax on, wax off.”
And so, Spencer and Penn State obtain a tantalizing high-ceiling recruit who is only now scratching the surface of his capabilities.
“His upside is just tremendous,” Blair Academy coach Jim Saylor said. “He’s in a program where we get 10 hours of practice per week, and he has to practice offense and defense. When he gets to a college program and has three hours each day just to focus on defensive end, it’s going to be special. He’s like a flower that hasn’t even bloomed yet.”
Oweh tallied 7 sacks during his first high school season in 2016. After opening eyes and soaring into 4-star status while impressing on an expansive offseason camp circuit, he entered the 2017 campaign with increased exposure and expectations.
He flourished under the newfound spotlight, erupting for 4 sacks, 11 tackles, 5 quarterback hurries, a forced fumble, a blocked punt and a 61-yard touchdown reception in Blair Academy’s season opener.
Following that effort, Oweh measured his progress against long-term potential.
“I would say I’m at less than 50 percent,” he said.
Alabama, Florida, Miami, Michigan, Nebraska and Notre Dame each gave chase. Ohio State went stride-for-stride with Penn State, perhaps surpassing the Nittany Lions at times, but Oweh is headed to Happy Valley.
That’s plenty of reason to celebrate in State College on Thursday night. But wait until you see what might happen next.
“I think he’s still going to get a lot, lot better but his progress is incredible,” Saylor said. “I can’t wait to see him in two, three, four years.”
Oweh is confident in that future.
“We’re winning it all next year,” he said after announcing at the All-America Game.