HUMMELSTOWN _ A major moment in Evan Schwan's recruitment occurred under somber circumstances.
A few hours before Penn State defensive line coach Larry Johnson was scheduled to visit Schwan's home, Joe Paterno died of lung cancer.
Johnson, who worked 16 years under Paterno, including 12 as defensive line coach, didn't cancel his trip to Harrisburg.
"That speaks volumes to me," Schwan said. "We had dinner at my house. He seemed kind of somber in a way, but he didn't want to be stuck on that. He wanted to move forward."
The story epitomizes Johnson. The coach almost never stops recruiting defensive linemen.
Schwan received a scholarship offer a week after Johnson's visit. The defensive end quickly decided to join the Nittany Lions.
Meeting Johnson on a draining day and receiving a scholarship offer capped an overwhelming senior season. Schwan helped Central Dauphin capture its first PIAA Class AAAA football title. His assertive play also landed him on Pennsylvania's Big 33 Football Classic team.
Schwan approaches work with the same vigor as the man who recruited him. He never stops moving forward.
"What Coach Johnson realized about me is that even if I get knocked down during the play, I get right back up," Schwan said between Big 33 practices earlier this week. "I have a really good motor. I can be triple-teamed, and I'll keep going."
The forward thinking helped Schwan endure some rough stages. His rise at athletically-gifted Central Dauphin was methodical. Schwan played freshmen football, worked with the junior varsity as a sophomore and suffered back and shoulder injuries in 2010.
He entered his senior season as a big unknown in recruiting and Mid- Penn Conference circles, but he blossomed into a force on the Rams' defensive line, posting 72 tackles and 16 1/ 2 sacks.
"I give him a lot of credit," Central Dauphin coach Glen McNamee said. "When he got cleared in the offseason, he went hard in the weight room, and when the season started, he wasn't shy, hesitant, cautious or any of those things. Anybody that watched him play would say he played with reckless abandon."
Stout defense produced Central Dauphin's late-season surge, as the Rams allowed 16.3 points per game. They completed the championship run with a 14-7 victory over District 1 North Penn at Hersherypark Stadium, the same site as Saturday's all-star game against Ohio.
Four years in a competitive athletic environment might help Schwan when he reports to Penn State next weekend. Central Dauphin also owns recent state titles in wrestling, boys' volleyball, girls' soccer and girls' basketball.
Schwan was surrounded talented athletes, such as current Pitt linemen Jack Lippert and Artie Rowell, Big 33 teammate Zach Wilk and rising senior and Penn State target Zayd Issah. Incoming Wake Forest basketball freshman Devin Thomas and current Cornell wrestler Marshall Peppelman are among the talented athletes who also attended high school with Schwan.
"Being around people that are so successful in high school makes you want to achieve more and succeed more," said Schwan, whose father, Dale, played football at Purdue. "They are all D-I athletes and they want to be great."
At 6-foot-6, Schwan stood out in the Central Dauphin hallways. Starting his senior year at 220 pounds, he's listed at 245 pounds on the Big 33 roster.
A need on the offensive line prevented him from playing tight end this past season, but McNamee said Schwan, who played offensive tackle, has the speed of a high school skill player.
"He moves well from side to side, has good straight-ahead speed and a quick burst off the line of scrimmage," McNamee said. "He hustles and can make plays on the back side. We had a need on the offensive line, but he could have been an excellent tight end with his size and speed."
The Nittany Lions are stocked at defensive end, with veterans Sean Stanley and Pete Massaro returning and prized recruits C.J. Olaniyan, Deion Barnes and Anthony Zettel aging. Climbing the depth chart will be a gradual process, which might benefit Schwan, whose potential intrigues Pennsylvania coach Mike Brennan.
"He has such a tremendous upside," said Brennan, the coach at District 11 Blue Mountain. "There's no telling how big he can be. There's no telling how talented he can become. He's all over the place on the field."