Trace McSorley was driving near his Virginia home when his phone rang. The caller ID showed an unfamiliar Pennsylvania area code but he answered anyway and heard the voice of James Franklin, the newly hired head coach at Penn State who had recruited him for Vanderbilt.
McSorley, who had committed to the coach for Vanderbilt, wasn't happy. It had been more than a week since he learned that Franklin had accepted the Penn State job but it was the first time since then that the coach had contacted him.
"I remember being probably a little short on the phone because I was upset with kind of how everything had gone down," McSorley recalled Tuesday, "and obviously not knowing exactly what was going on in the dead [recruiting] period, not hearing anything for a while.
"He was just saying, 'Hey, sorry how this all panned out, but we want you to come up here. Take a visit. We want you to play here.'"
McSorley visited Happy Valley with his parents that weekend and officially committed, the start of a relationship that will close a chapter Saturday when he will play his final game at Beaver Stadium as the winningest quarterback in program history while holding a multitude of school records.
The Nittany Lions will honor 21 players at Senior Day prior to kickoff against Maryland. Of that group, McSorley and cornerback Amani Oruwariye flipped their commitments from Vanderbilt to Penn State after Franklin's hire on Jan. 10, 2014. Linebacker Koa Farmer later came on board after considering Franklin's previous institution.
At his weekly teleconference, Franklin recalled the difficulty reaching out to his Vanderbilt recruits and those high school players who already had committed to Bill O'Brien, the previous coach, after he came aboard.
Franklin could not bring his assistant coaches into the Lasch Football Building because they had not yet cleared the university's human relations office, which meant they were unable to contact recruits on behalf of Penn State.
"A lot of [players] were really mad because they were committed and then we left," Franklin said. "It was madness. We didn't talk to these guys from the time we left Vanderbilt to the time we actually cleared here, for like a week and a half or so, and now they are mad at us because they are kind of left out, stuck in-between all of that.
"I remember sitting in the Penn Stater [hotel], and we were all kind of stuck in a room for however long it was. Fortunately we were able to get these guys on the phone and explain the situation. Most of them were really good but some of them, it was a battle. Feelings were hurt but it's hard to explain to a 17-year-old kid about HR and clearing the paperwork and those types of things from a compliance standpoint."
Two other former Vanderbilt commits who joined Franklin at Penn State, cornerbacks Grant Haley and Christian Campbell, completed their eligibility last season. McSorley, Oruwariye and Farmer are fifth-year players.
Fifth-year seniors to commit to O'Brien and remain at Penn State after the coaching change were safety Nick Scott, running back/kick returner Jonathan Thomas, wide receiver DeAndre Thompkins and offensive tackle Chasz Wright.
For McSorley, who will start his 39th consecutive game on Saturday, it was the beginning of a memorable career in Happy Valley, despite the shaky start a few Januarys ago.
"I remember coming up and telling [Franklin] I was coming here," he said. "He said to me, 'So we're cool now, like we don't have any animosity between us anymore?' So yeah, I think he got that sense a little bit, too, but everything just worked out well."