Jake Kiley will be attending Penn State to play football next fall. Courtesy Photo. (click for larger version)
January 23, 2012NEW HAMPTON — Jake Kiley knew he had some decisions to make, but also knew that there were many things to consider before he made those decisions.
Kiley, a Plymouth resident and a standout on the New Hampton School football team, had accepted a scholarship to Penn State University to play football next year, but when the horrific sexual assault scandal broke earlier this fall, Kiley had to think about what he was going to do.
"When the whole thing first happened, I decided to step back and take a look," Kiley said in a recent interview. "I kind of stayed solid the whole time, I didn't really waver."
Kiley did, however, at least contemplate moving along, as two of the coaches who recruited him, including former interim coach Tom Bradley, were announced to not be returning this season as the school looks to move on beyond the scandal that scarred its reputation and forced the firing of coaching legend Joe Paterno.
"I really wanted to go and get a feel for the new staff, talk to the players and see what's going through their heads before I made any decisions," Kiley said.
Kiley admitted that when the Penn State scandal broke, other schools began calling him, offering the possibility to move on, but he wanted to wait and see what direction the school went with in its search for a coach before making that decision.
The direction the Nittany Lions went was with Patriots Offensive Coordinator Bill O'Brien.
Kiley visited Penn State for an official visit over the Civil Rights Day weekend and included in his visit was a 45-minute talk with O'Brien and he liked what he heard.
"It was like starting over for everyone," Kiley said. "Which is kind of nice, we're all new."
Kiley said that O'Brien is 100 percent committed to the Penn State program and his energy was one of the things that convinced Kiley to stick with Penn State.
"He's in it 100 percent," Kiley said. "He's so competitive, it made me want to play while I was in the room."
O'Brien noted that Kiley, who played defensive back at New Hampton, as well as quarterback and all sorts of special teams duties, will be getting his first looks at cornerback this summer as the new college football season gets under way.
Kiley was thrilled with the official visit he had over the previous weekend, and particularly enjoyed staying with the current Penn State players. And Kiley noted they talked about football, not about the scandal.
"We were able to talk about football, not about the scandal," Kiley said, noting that was his intention all along, as looking forward is more important than looking back. "They know that's part of our life, but it was nice to not talk about it," Kiley added.
Originally choosing Penn State was a fairly easy choice for Kiley, as he noted it was his first choice.
"It's a great academic institution in the first place," Kiley said. "Besides football, academics was a huge reason I committed."
O'Brien told the new recruits that everyone would be coming into the new season with a chance to win the starting job and Kiley was thrilled to hear that he had a chance to play his way on to the field.
Summer camp will begin in late June, meaning Kiley will be leaving Plymouth shortly after graduating from New Hampton.
Kiley noted pre-law was a possibility for a major, but he's strongly considering a business major, as the Penn State business school is very impressive.
"There's the possibility of getting my master's degree before I even get out," Kiley said. "I'm graduating no matter what. I am going to a school that's $50,000 a year, I'm taking advantage of everything."
Kiley originally came to New Hampton for basketball and for his first years at the school, also played hoops for the Huskies. He is not playing in his senior year as he is spending his time preparing for college.
"By the time my sophomore year rolled around, I went to the Boston College football camp and that's when I realized football was something I could go places with," Kiley said. "The calls started coming in."
Kiley noted he never had to work at basketball, but football was different, as he had to put a lot of work into it.
He currently comes in at 180 pounds on his 6'2" frame and Penn State wants him to come in somewhere between 185 and 190, so he has been working hard in the weight room and has been spending a lot of time on his quickness drills, doing everything he can to get a little faster.
Over his career at New Hampton, Kiley has made a name for himself on both sides of the ball. As a freshman at about 5'8" and 140 pounds, he was able to shut down a 6'5" receiver in his very first game and came away with a great feeling.
The team won the New England championship in his sophomore year, when he stepped in as quarterback. He was on the Evergreen League Team, the All New England team and was the co-MVP of the Super Bowl game.
In his junior year, he was the league MVP, was again an All New England selection and was a Reebok All-American.
During this past year, Kiley was the New Hampshire Gatorade Player of the Year, was the league MVP, the All-New England MVP and was a Boston Globe All-Scholastic honoree.
With all the honors, Kiley had numerous choices on his college radar. He looked at Maryland, Virginia, Duke, Syracuse and Boston College, went to different camps and weighed his options.
Penn State was one of the final places he visited and it was a visit to Happy Valley that sealed his desire to go to Penn State.
"The stadium was crazy," Kiley said. "If we see 50 people at our games, we get so excited. We walked on to the field before the players and I was ready."
Kiley admits to being the ultimate competitor and hopes that the work ethic will continue to pay off.
"I'm the ultimate competitor, I don't care if I'm playing Monopoly with my nine-year-old sister, I have to win," he said with a laugh. "I love the pressure situations when you have to strive to succeed."
PSU offered him a scholarship about a week after he first visited and when he called other coaches to let them know, they started offering. But the first offer stayed in his heart.
"It's where I wanted to go," he said.
While at New Hampton, Kiley's head coach was his father, Ed. The younger Kiley notes that after playing for his dad, he's pretty sure he can play for anyone.
"I like a coach who pushes you," Kiley said, noting that O'Brien's fieriness on the sidelines with Tom Brady earlier this year was good to see.
Kiley remembers returning a kick for the first time ever. He broke the ball down the sideline and returned it 90 yards for a touchdown.
When he got back to the sideline, his father told him he should've made a cut.
"After being here, I'll be ready for anybody," he said with a laugh.
Kiley will officially sign his commitment letter on Feb. 2.
"Then it's official, I just have to get through the rest of the school year," he said.
Joshua Spaulding can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 569-3126