LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. - Curtis Drake appeared to fit in perfectly with some of the older participants in yesterday's Day for Kids program at DisneyQuest, part of the festivities for this week's Capital One Bowl.
But looking past all the video games and attractions in the indoor theme park, one could spot Drake - the former West Catholic star - wearing his Penn State jersey, a freshman taking a break with his teammates before practice.
Joe Paterno has long been known for moving true freshmen into the lineup slowly, if at all, but Drake's versatility at wide receiver has put him in good standing with the veteran coach.
Logging the most playing time of any of Penn State's true freshmen this season, the 5-foot-11, 169-pound Drake caught seven passes for 86 yards, rushed three times for 27 yards, and completed one of two passes.
The completion by the former high school all-state quarterback was important - a 14-yard scoring pass to tight end Andrew Quarless off a reverse that fueled the Nittany Lions' second-half surge last month at Michigan State.
"It was definitely nice to throw it," Drake said. "It took me back to my high school days. A bunch of people from back home said I looked just how I looked in high school, so that was cool."
Drake looked more comfortable in Penn State's final two games, when he was pressed into regular duty following a shoulder injury suffered by Chaz Powell early in the Lions' win over Indiana.
He had two catches plus a 26-yard run that set up the tying touchdown just before halftime against the Hoosiers. Then came the TD pass against Michigan State.
"Once Chaz went down, I realized it will be me in there and I have to go in there and perform," he said. "I just tried to get my mind right, try to go to practice with a different attitude. It definitely gave me an opportunity to show what I had."
Powell is expected to be 100 percent for Friday's bowl game against LSU, but Drake probably will see a good deal of time.
Drake, who rushed for 1,639 yards and passed for 1,354 during his senior year at West Catholic, said he was well prepared to make the move to wide receiver.
"When the first-team offense wasn't on the field, I would run wideout for the second team just to do something," Drake said, referring to his final high school season. "It was the same at Big 33 practice; I would play wideout just to do something.
"Before I came up to Penn State, I had a personal trainer who played wide receiver back in the day. So I went to the field with him three or four times a week and ran routes, got my footwork together, got my hands together. So it wasn't as hard as people expected it to be."
Drake said his season was "a little bumpy at the beginning" as he tried to get accustomed to college life.
"But once I got it together, got the plays down, got a little bit stronger, it definitely started to come together for me," he said. "It's been a good learning process."
For now, the challenge going into Friday's game is staying focused. Drake is enjoying his first trip to Florida.
"I'm thinking about all the stuff that Florida has to offer instead of practice," he said. "So I've got to focus and things like that. Playing in a bowl is big, and I want to make the best of it."