James Franklin weighs in on Lonnie White Jr.’s decision: Penn State wide receiver or pro baseball player?
The two-sport star from Malvern Prep signed with the Nittany Lions in December, and was drafted earlier this month by Pittsburgh. "I just want Lonnie to be happy," the head coach said.
INDIANAPOLIS — Penn State head coach James Franklin was walking to his next interview station Thursday at Big Ten football media day when his phone buzzed with a text message.
The text was from Reggie White, the mother of Lonnie White Jr., the Malvern Prep two-sport star who is considering whether to play football for the Nittany Lions or sign with the Pittsburgh Pirates. The Pirates made him a second-round pick earlier this month in the Major League Baseball draft, the 64th player selected overall.
“I went to college with Mom and Dad and I’ve got a really good relationship with them,” Franklin said at Lucas Oil Stadium before making his first public comments about White since the draft.
“For me, I just want Lonnie to be successful and I want Lonnie to be happy,” he said, “and if that means Penn State and playing football and baseball and hopefully getting his degree from Penn State, play in the NFL and possibly Major League Baseball, then awesome.
“If that means him going to play baseball right now and chasing that dream, I just want him to have all the information and be able to make an educated decision and then go from there.”
The 6-foot-2, 210-pound White, a wide receiver, signed a national letter of intent with the Lions in December. He scored seven touchdowns — three rushing, four receiving — in an abbreviated four-game football season last fall, then batted .395 with five home runs in the spring.
However, the Pirates have a $1 million bonus slot for their selection of White, according to MLB.com.
Franklin indicated that White made a decision in recent days, and then had a change of heart Thursday.
“A few days ago, I thought it was a done deal,” he said. “I knew what he was doing. I just got a text message that it’s changed in another direction. I’m not sure, I think it depends on the date. I didn’t tell you what the direction was two days ago and I won’t tell you what the direction is today so don’t try to assume anything.”
Franklin said White’s parents made their first visit to Penn State a few weeks ago. He said he had a “really good conversation” with them then, and “we’ve been talking a lot since.”
Franklin said White had some flexibility in making his decision, saying he essentially had up to the Aug. 6 start of training camp, but that date could be pushed back to the first day of the fall semester on Aug. 23.
“I’ve learned a lot about this,” he said. “First of all, it’s a tremendous compliment to the university. I think it’s a tremendous compliment to the family. They’re saying, let’s not make the best decision for next year, let’s make the best decision for our son’s future long-term. So I think they’re approaching it the right way.”
Nittany Notes: Defensive end Dani Dennis-Sutton of Owings Mills, Md., a consensus five-star recruit, made an oral commitment to the Nittany Lions, the highest-ranked member of the freshman class of 2022 to date. The 6-foot-5, 253-pound Dennis-Sutton, who attends the McDonogh School, chose the Lions over Alabama and Georgia. He is ranked the nation’s No. 11 player by Rivals, and the No. 1 prospect at his position. … Penn State announced that its Sept. 18 game against Auburn would be the season’s “White Out” game at Beaver Stadium. It marks the first such contest against a nonconference opponent since Alabama in 2011. The “White Out” was not held last year because of crowd restrictions. … Wide receiver Jahan Dotson was one of 10 players named to the Big Ten football preseason honors list, which consists of five players from each division. Ohio State dominated the awards with three selections.