Brandon Bell took the football practice field Thursday night with his mind clear.
One of the biggest decisions of his life had been made.
The Oakcrest High School junior verbally committed Wednesday night to attend Penn State on a football scholarship.
“I went up there for a visit and that’s the place I wanted to be for the future,” Bell said. “It’s the institution itself. It kind of won me over.”
Oakcrest began spring practices this week, which are permitted under New Jersey State Interscholastic Athletic Association regulations. During the workouts, Bell found himself thinking about what college to go to.
“I definitely can’t be thinking about (his college decision) during practice,” Bell said. “I got it off my chest.”
Bell’s decision will not become binding until he signs a national letter of intent on Feb. 6, 2013. Penn State coaches are not permitted to comment on Bell until he signs the letter of intent, under NCAA rules.
The 6-foot-1, 220-pound Bell has started since he was a sophomore. He made 117 tackles, including 22 for losses last season. Bell had six sacks and forced three fumbles.
He also played fullback last season, rushing for 429 yards and five touchdowns. Bells runs the 40-yard dash in 4.6 seconds.
Bell visited Penn State twice, once with his family and once with Oakcrest coach Chuck Smith. Penn State’s home field — Beaver Stadium — seats 106,572 fans.
“It’s fun because you get to play in such an awesome setting,” Smith said. “When we were up there on a visit, you could see that (Bell) was just in awe that he could play in that venue. There’s only a couple of (colleges) you can play in stadiums like that.”
Bell was primarily recruited by Penn State linebacker coach Ron Vanderline, who has been with the school since 2001. Penn State is known for producing standout linebackers. Former Southern Regional standout Glenn Carson is currently a junior linebacker at Penn State.
Penn State is in the midst of beginning a new era because of an ongoing scandal that shook the program. Former Penn State defensive coordinator Jerry Sandusky is currently on trial for child molestation. Legendary Penn State coach Joe Paterno was fired after the Sandusky charges were revealed. Paterno died Jan. 22.
Former New England Patriots offensive coordinator Bill O’Brien is now the coach.
Bell said the scandal didn’t affect his decision.
“The community itself is filled with great people,” he said. “They’re going to get over the (scandal). They have a slogan — ‘Restore the Roar.’ I kind of like that.”
O’Brien also impressed Bell.
“He’s a straight-forward-type guy, which I like very much,” Bell said. “He doesn’t hide anything.”
Several colleges, including Northwestern, Boston College and West Virginia, also offered Bell a scholarship.
With his decision made, Bell can now enjoy his summer and focus on preparing for his senior season.
“I’m feeling blessed,” Bell said. “Not everybody gets an opportunity like this. I can never take it for granted.”
Contact Michael McGarry: