The dream became more vivid over the last few years. It was just a matter of bringing it more into focus.

Shawn Oakman has been through many trials and tribulations, but he really hadn't looked beyond high school until recently.

He moved in with his uncle and aunt, Ken and Tracy Roberts, who instilled discipline and hope. He received guidance from Penn Wood High basketball coach Clyde Jones and football coach Sam Mormando, who both made him see a brighter future than where it seemed he was headed.

Three years ago, the 6-8, 250-pound senior-to-be was just happy to be alive. Now he's headed to Penn State.

The massive defensive end chose Penn State over Pittsburgh and Temple. He's projected to play defensive end for the Nittany Lions. Plus, Penn State's coaching staff gave him the option of also playing basketball, but Oakman stressed the priority will be football. This coming hoops season, he's expected to finish as a 4-year starter for the Patriots, last year's PIAA Class AAAA state runner-up.

But Oakman, who has been invited to the Under Armour game in January that features some of the best high school football players in the country, realizes his future lies with football.

He informed Penn State assistant coaches Larry Johnson and Ron Vanderlinden of his decision Thursday night. He called Johnson first, asking him, "Do have that No. 91 ready for me next year, coach?"

"I couldn't be happier," said Oakman, who hopes to wear No. 91 at State College. "It came down to what I thought what a college should be and also what college coach was going to push me from being good to being great. I think coach Johnson and coach Vanderlinden can do that. That's why I choose Penn State.

"It wasn't easy. The coaching staffs believed in their programs, at Penn State, Pittsburgh and Temple. They all told me that their programs were best for me. I liked all of them. I loved all of the coaches. They were all good guys. I could see myself playing for any of those schools.

"That's what I liked about coach Johnson; he doesn't want me to be just a good player, he wants to push me to be great, and I think coach Johnson would push me in a good way."

Another priority in his choice was staying local. Penn State is a reasonable distance from Lansdowne, where Oakman lives with the Roberts family. His uncle and aunt have supported him since his freshman year at Penn Wood.

"My family really wrapped their arms around me," Oakman said. "That's why it was important to stay local, because of the family support that I have. Most of my success is giving it up to my family, especially my Uncle Ken and my Aunt Tracy. A big thing with them during the recruiting process was academics.

"Penn State is giving me everything. Penn State gives you a guarantee of a full education. They have 85 percent of their athletes graduate. I'm not saying that the other schools don't graduate their athletes, I just liked Penn State's graduation rate."

Oakman is hoping to major in history and education, with the hope of becoming a teacher. But if he keeps progressing the way he has on the football field, there is the possibility he may be making a career stop before stepping in front of a classroom.

"My dream is to play in the NFL, which is kind of funny, because I didn't dream about doing anything at all not long ago," Oakman admitted. "I didn't see this at all. I didn't even see myself going to college, period. Some things change. I've changed a lot. I needed more discipline in my life and I got that from my Uncle Ken and Aunt Tracy. I give them all the credit. I wouldn't be in this position if it wasn't for them. This is one of the happiest days of my life, most definitely." *

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