Lonnie White showed the ability at an early age to excel at baseball, and committed to play the sport at Clemson early in his sophomore year at Malvern Prep.
But the versatile White started opening up the eyes of college football coaches in his junior season. With the offers from FBS schools pouring in, he decided to look into his opportunities.
Being from Coatesville, he eventually checked out Penn State. He liked what he had seen and heard and, even though his planned visit to Happy Valley in late March was canceled following the onset of the coronavirus pandemic, he remained interested and gave an oral commitment in May to head coach James Franklin.
“I loved Clemson and I loved the coaches,” White, who will return his signed national letter of intent Wednesday to Penn State, said Monday night. “But when the football offers started coming in, I decided I didn’t want to put the pads down after high school and I wanted to play both [football and baseball] in college.
“If I was able to play both, I kind of wanted to stay closer to home, and I thought Penn State was the perfect choice because we were a Penn State family. We always rooted for Penn State all our lives. I just love the coaching staff. Coach Franklin’s awesome. They’re all awesome.”
The 6-foot-3, 210-pound White, who played several positions for Malvern Prep and is a consensus four-star pick by recruiting services, will be a wide receiver with the Nittany Lions. He is a center fielder on the baseball team.
Friars football coach Dave Gueriera called White “a once-in-a-generational talent.
“I think he’s the best player that I’ve laid eyes on as a coach, live, in the high school world,” Gueriera said. “I think his potential is still untapped, a rare combination of speed and size. He can just do so many things. He’s super versatile. He can run, catch, throw, jump, he’s elusive. Being as big as he is and the way he can pull away, it’s special.”
White had visited Penn State for a summer camp before his sophomore year and also attended the 2019 game against Indiana at Beaver Stadium. After his visit last spring was canceled, he said Franklin took him on a virtual campus tour over Zoom.
White’s position coach at Penn State will be Taylor Stubblefield, who caught 325 passes during his career at Purdue, an NCAA record that stood from 2004 to 2011.
“I just think it’s going to be very good for me,” White said of being coached by Stubblefield. “He knows a lot about the game. He’s been around the game for a very long time. I know he’s going to push me to be the best I can be. He’s such a great guy.”
White managed to stay in shape during the spring and summer by playing baseball and working out three times a week with a trainer. He played in each of Malvern Prep’s four football games this fall; a fifth game was canceled.
“It was rough,” he said. “It was really weird. Nothing was promised, so every game we just played like it was our last basically. It was just a really weird year. It’s tough because it was senior year.”
Gueriera said he feels White will be driven to succeed in both football and baseball with the Nittany Lions.
“Academically, he definitely has a tough workload here,” he said. “I think in college, of course, it’s going to be a little bit more of a workload academically. Of course, the sports are going to be a little more intense. But I think if anyone’s built for it, it’s Lonnie. He’s been training for it. He wants this so badly.”
Here are the high school players who are expected to return signed national letters of intent Wednesday to Penn State:
Nate Bruce, 6-4, 320, OL, Harrisburg, Harrisburg, Pa.
Jamari Buddin, 6-2, 210, LB, Belleville, Belleville, Mich.
Liam Clifford, 6-1, 195, WR, St. Xavier’s, Cincinnati
Jeffrey Davis, 6-0, 170, DB, Kingswood-Oxford School, West Hartford, Conn.
Khalil Dinkins, 6-3, 220, TE, North Allegheny, Wexford, Pa.
Kalen King, 5-11, 170, DB, Cass Technical, Detroit
Kobe King, 6-0½, 223, LB, Cass Technical, Detroit
Rodney McGraw, 6-5, 230, DE, Elkhart Central, Elkhart, Ind.
Jaylen Reed, 6-0, 190, S, Martin Luther King, Detroit
Sander Sahaydak, 6-1, 170, K, Liberty, Bethlehem, Pa.
Landon Tengwall, 6-6, 300, OL, Good Counsel, Olney, Md.
Christian Veilleux, 6-4, 195, QB, Bullis School (Md.), Ottawa, Ont.
Harrison Wallace, 6-1, 185, WR, Pike Road, Pike Road, Ala.
Zakee Wheatley, 6-2, 180, DB, Archbishop Spalding, Severn, Md.
Lonnie White, 6-2, 210, WR, Malvern Prep, Coatesville