How Franklin reeled in his first PSU commit

February, 5, 2014
Feb 5
7:00
AM ET
Chance Sorrell stuck his finger in the air to hush his parents.

The Vanderbilt commit had waited for this phone call for close to two weeks. He had wandered the halls of Middletown (Ohio) High School and been stopped, several times, and asked by his teammates and teachers: "What's going on with your coach?" Back in early January, he didn't know where James Franklin would wind up -- or, by extension, where he would. No one did.

So, on the night of Jan. 11, he didn't want to miss the thrust of this phone call while his parents whispered in the background. It could determine his future. It could answer all the questions that raged inside the mind of the three-star offensive tackle. It could put an end to those difficult mornings waking up because it was so hard to fall asleep with this weighing on his mind.

So, on a Saturday night, when an unknown number flashed on his cell -- from Pennsylvania -- he leaped from the couch, muted the TV and sprinted along with his parents to the quieter kitchen. Franklin had been formally introduced as Penn State's head coach less than five hours earlier. It was 9 p.m. now.

And, sure enough, Franklin was on the other line.

Chance, we really like you and we want you to play here. And we're offering you a scholarship at Penn State --

Sorrell couldn't make out the last few words of Franklin's pitch because his parents, literally bouncing with excitement, whispered loudly: "Commit right now!" Sorrell pointed his finger toward his parents, as if to signify, "Just a second here."

When Franklin finished speaking, Sorrell's grin widened: "Yes, sir, I'm committing."

Can I take that as you committing to Penn State?

"Yeah."

Sorrell had never before even stepped foot on campus, so Franklin asked him to repeat himself twice more. And then, his voice rising as it's wont to do when he gets excited, Franklin asked one final time: So, you're telling me that Chance Sorrell is committing to Penn State?

"It got to the point," Sorrell said with a laugh, "where I finally just said, 'I, Chance Sorrell, am committing to Penn State.' And I guess he had about 10 people in the room because they started cheering when I said that. I think he just wanted me to say it like that."

Sorrell was the first commit of Franklin's Penn State coaching career, and it came less than four hours after Franklin stepped off the dais inside Beaver Stadium -- while T-shirts emblazoned with Franklin's slogan of "Dominate the region" were still ideas in business owners' heads. Franklin had landed in Happy Valley on a twin-jet less than 11 hours before.

Sorrell's commitment would set off a chain of other pledges -- seven more in less than a month -- and he promised Tuesday night he'd scan and email in his letter of intent by 7 a.m. Wednesday.

For the 265-pound prospect, the decision was an easy one. Hours before Franklin's call, he sat at his kitchen table while his father sprawled out a three-inch deck of coaches' business cards and pulled one at a time to ask whether he was interested. Wake Forest, Bowling Green (his first offer) and Tennessee were tossed into the "yes" pile.

But as soon as Franklin offered, those business cards were cleared off the table for good. He trusted Franklin and, although he had been committed to Vanderbilt since June, he felt even more loyal to his coach.

A day after originally committing to the Commodores, a dejected Sorrell picked up the phone to inform his head coach he had torn his labrum. And, if Franklin needed to rescind the offer, he totally understood.

"He told me, 'Chance, you committed to me -- and I'm committed to you. Even if you don't play a single snap, you're graduating with a degree from Vanderbilt,'" Sorrell said.

"So, of course, I wanted to follow him at Penn State. It just seemed like a tremendous fit."

Sorrell has since visited Happy Valley. He stared in awe over the 107,000 seats in Beaver Stadium, took in the players' lounge ("Vanderbilt didn't actually have a players' lounge," he added) and envisioned himself playing on the practice field and lifting in the blue and white weight room.

His recruitment to Penn State started with a phone call and, well, really ended with that same phone call. There was no doubt in Sorrell's mind that he wanted to play for Franklin and, when he received the Penn State offer, he didn't even really need to hear Franklin's pitch to become Franklin's first Penn State commit.

"I'd follow him anywhere," Sorrell said. "And it just seemed like a tremendous fit with a prestigious collegiate program like Penn State."

Josh Moyer | email

Penn State/Big Ten reporter

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