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Penn State Football Q&A: The Story Behind the Tweet that was Burning a Hole in Julian Fleming‘s Pocket

by on February 21, 2019 7:00 PM

Julian Fleming changed his mind.

Which happens to all of us.

And is a frequent occurrence in the high-stakes world of big-time college football recruiting.

In the grand scheme of things it was neither a flip nor a flop. Just a slight alteration in Fleming‘s timetable, that’s all.

Still, it showed that The Kid is fast, nimble at changing routes on the fly and his own man. To explain:

Last Saturday evening, the No. 1 high school football prospect in the Commonwealth and the No. 1 wide receiver prospect in the nation, was chilling out — all alone at his table 20 minutes before the start of the Mr. PA Football banquet in Harrisburg.

So, I walked over and we did a quick interview, on the record, just prior to the official 6:30 p.m. start of the banquet. (The timing matters.)

In that Q&A — published in its entirety below — Fleming was engaging and relaxed, yet mature and respectful. That combination impressed me as much as his 183 receptions for 3,942 yards and 55 TD receptions in his three seasons as a wide receiver at Southern Columbia High School.

(Impressed the voters, too: Later that night Fleming was named the winner of the Small School Mr. PA Football Award for 2018, edging out among others his teammate, quarterback Stone Hollenbach, who is headed to Alabama as a walk-on after leading Southern Columbia to consecutive 16-0 seasons.)

I asked Fleming, a high school junior, when he would pare down his list of 10 targeted colleges, which he shared on Christmas Day. He replied that he already had, but was going to wait until next week to release it publicly.

Ah, the impetuousness of youth.

That Tweet was burning a hole in Fleming’s pocket.

And out it came at 7:46 p.m. last Saturday night, about 100 minutes after we chatted and in the middle of the banquet — with Penn State head coach James Franklin sitting one table away from Fleming, at that.

The interview — and the Tweet — follow.

Q&A WITH JULIAN FLEMING  On Christmas Day, your Tweeted out you final 10 schools. Are they all still in play?

FLEMING: We cut it down a little bit. It’s not on [social media] yet. Do you want to share which schools are left?

FLEMING: Not yet. It will be out in the next couple of days. What’s the process for cutting them down?

FLEMING: It’s matter of who’s shown interest in me, above and beyond the other programs. Places that have made me a priority — not just as a player, but as a student-athlete. Education-wise is important, too. It matters what my family thinks is best.
 What do you want to study?

FLEMING: I’m going to go in undecided. I don’t want to have to pick a major and then switch it. Honestly, maybe something with communications. I’ve thought about psychology, too. A lot of work goes into whatever you’re studying, so we’ll see what happens. I’ll have to pick what’s right for me after I get on campus and take some basic classes. Did you know that James Franklin was a psychology major in college?

FLEMING: I didn’t know that. I need to ask him about that. He’s certainly a people person. Did I see where Franklin was wearing your jersey?

FLEMING: Yeah, I wear No. 4. He came to my game and wore my jersey. He goes above and beyond for his recruits. My birthday was signing day, and I Face-timed them and all the coaches sang “Happy Birthday” to me. They had a little No. 4 on their tree. It was cool. What has this process been like for you?

FLEMING: Honestly, it was really fun at first. But lately, it’s getting old since I’ve been through it since my freshman year. I’m a little ready for it to be over. I want to get into college and be a nobody. I’m still feeling it out. Everybody comes up to me. And I have no problem speaking with people. Is it a two-step process that you can speed up, by making an early verbal commitment and then enrolling in college early?

FLEMING: Once I cut out a school, I try to stay away from those programs and don’t answer their texts or calls. I’m focusing on the main schools I’m interested in. You don’t want to just sit there and play games with schools if I know I’m not going to go there. Sounds like dating.

FLEMING: Exactly. You have to focus on the schools that you actually want and are interested in. Speaking of which… It always seems like I see on Twitter that you’re at Penn State on a certain weekend, visiting your girlfriend. Is that kind of weird, everyone knowing what you’re up to?

FLEMING: It is. You know, I don’t put it out there. I don’t how people find out or it gets out there. It’s just a routine trip up to see my girlfriend and somehow, it always gets posted.

She doesn’t mind it — and I’m going to tell her to read this — but she hates when some people call her “Julian’s Girlfriend.” She doesn’t like that too much. She’s been really supportive. She hasn’t really pushed Penn State on me. She’s left it up to me and family and hasn’t pushed me in any direction. I appreciate her for that and also appreciate my family for all their help. Moving onto football — last year, Southern Columbia averaged 52 points per game. What’s it like being a part of an offense like that?

FLEMING: It’s a lot of points, that’s for sure. It’s a big deal. We have a really explosive offense. If you look at it, we’re scoring in three, four, five plays. And if you look at our defense, it’s dominate, too [giving up just 11 points per game]. It’s been really fun the past two years. With Stone headed for Alabama, who’s throwing the ball to you next year?

FLEMING: It will be our other wide receiver — Preston Zachman. He played quarterback in midgets and junior high. He came up and made that transition to wide receiver. When Stone was out with an injury, he came in and did a great job. We played together for three years in midgets and junior high. We have a little connection going. What is it about football and Julian Fleming?

FLEMING: I actually like to hit people in football — I have fun while doing it and not getting in trouble. It’s just fun. It never gets old. A lot of the time, people target you and say, “You’re not going to do this” or “You’re not going to be that.” It’s fun to go out there and compete and show them that they’re wrong. You seem to have your act together. Why?

FLEMING: It’s my mom and my grandfather. They have made me the person I am today. She’s been the mom and the father throughout the whole process. She’s done everything for me. And my grandparents and my aunt and my uncle are such a great supporting cast. They keep reminding me to not get a big head, to not do anything wrong. I owe it to all of them for keeping me straight. Despite all the stories and publicity surrounding you, what is it that most people don’t know about Julian Fleming?

FLEMING: Most people know everything about me. I’m not a super-open person, so I try to keep to myself. I’m not very social. I don’t like being around big crowds. I have my people who I feel comfortable around.

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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