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Big Night for Julian Fleming: Nation’s No. 1 Receiver & Penn State Prospect Narrows List to 6, Wins Mr. PA Football

by on February 16, 2019 10:10 PM

HARRISBURG — As the No. 1 high school wide receiver prospect in the country, Julian Fleming is certainly adept on the football field.

Saturday night here at the annual Mr. PA Football awards program, we learned he is equally as smooth off it.

Minutes before Fleming arose from Table No. 24 at the Best Western Premier here and took the stage in the hotel's banquet room as one of the finalists for the 2018 Mr. PA Football Award, he sent out a Tweet.

It was a Tweet he was intending to post in the next few days, he said before the banquet officially started.

But, once things got rolling, Fleming changed his mind. He was ready.

And the timing couldn't have been any better.

Fleming, a junior at Southern Columbia High School — located just 2.9 miles north of Knoebels Amusement Park, along Route 487 — is the fifth-ranked high school football player in the nation and the No. 1-ranked prep footballer in Pennsylvania, as well as the nation’s No. 1-rated wide receiver.

That Fleming was wearing a stylish powder blue suit, complete with vest, had to be a good omen for the event’s keynote speaker, whose seat was less than 10 feet away from Fleming’s and directly in front of the stage.

That man is Penn State football coach James Franklin.

Franklin gave a 25-minute, 10-second keynote address — replete with PowerPoint — with Fleming and the other finalists on stage. Fleming made the call within mere minutes of Franklin speechifying onstage.

Fleming’s well-timed Tweet read:

“I would like to thank every coaching staff that has given me an opportunity to play at the next level, and also thank them for the tip and guidance they have provided me to this point. With that being said, I have narrowed down my future home to one of six schools, and am only focusing on those six schools.

“Clemson University

The Ohio State University

The University of Georgia

The University of Alabama

The University of Oregon

The Pennsylvania State University.”

Not making Fleming’s list of six — which stood at 10 when he Tweeted it out on Dec. 25, 2018 — were Florida, Michigan, USC and Virginia.

Less than a half-hour after his update, Fleming was named the 2018 winner of the Small School (Class 1A-3A) Mr. PA Football Award. In helping guide Southern Columbia to consecutive 16-0 records and two state titles, the 6-foot-3, 210-pound Fleming caught 150 passes for 3,195 yards and 43 touchdowns.

Penn State and Southern Columbia were the big winners on the night.

New Nittany Lion Daequan Hardy of Penn Hills High School, who just signed with PSU on Feb. 6, was named the Big School (Class 4A-6A) Mr. PA Football for 2018. Cornerback Keaton Ellis, who played for State High and was an early enrollee at Penn State in January, was a finalist for the big school award.

Hardy, a very late addition to Penn State’s Class of 2019, averaged over 22 yards per catch and 17.8 yards per rush in 2018, leading his team to a state title. In that championship game against Manheim Central, Hardy scored four touchdowns — two on receptions, another on an 84-yard kickoff return and the fourth via a 100-yard interception return.

In his acceptance speech, Fleming deflected the spotlight.

“Thank you. It’s been a wonderful event,” said Fleming. “It was nice meeting a bunch of other great athletes from around PA. Best of luck to you wherever you go. I want to thank my family for doing everything for me throughout this process — my mom, my grandfather, my aunts, my uncle and all my cousins who came here to support me. I really appreciate you guys.

“I want to thank my coach (Southern Columbia’s Jim Roth), who was honored as the legendary coach. I’m thankful for you, coach. I’d like to thank my quarterback (Stone Hollenbach), who threw me all those touchdown passes.”

Roth was the Mickey Minnich Legendary Coach of the Year honoree, and he was introduced by Penn State defensive coordinator Brent Pry. In 36 years, Roth has guided Southern Columbia to nine state titles, and has a career record of 428-62-2. Hollenbach was also a finalist for small school Mr. PA Football. Hollenbach, who is headed to Alabama as a preferred walk-on, threw for 5,774 yards and 70 TDs in his high school career.

The two Mr. PA Football awards continue Penn State’s hot streak, dating back to 2014.

Previous Nittany Lion winners have included running back Saquon Barkley (Whitehall, 2014), quarterback Michael Shuster (Camp Hill, 2015), running back Miles Sanders (Woodland Hills, 2015), cornerback safety Lamont Wade (Clairton, 2016) and Micah Parsons (Harrisburg, 2017). Shuster, a walk-on junior quarterback for Penn State and a stellar dean’s list student in finance, was also on hand for the event.

Mike Poorman has covered Penn State football since 1979, and for since the 2009 season. His column appears on Mondays and Fridays. Follow him on Twitter at His views and opinions do not necessarily reflect those of Penn State University.
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