Pat Freiermuth has always looked the part from a distance. In 2016 he was leaping all over an empty Beaver Stadium, grabbing pass after pass at one of Penn State's many summer camps held for prospects already on the coaching staff's radar, or hoping to catch their eye.
Freiermuth was somewhere in between — he wasn't unknown, but he wasn't a headliner that weekend. Nevertheless he earned himself an offer and committed just over a month later.
"My coach told me I would be getting some very serious looks," Freiermuth said Tuesday. "I really didn't believe him. UMass and BC [Boston College] called, and they were just local. Once I heard from Syracuse, Penn State, Ohio State and Notre Dame, it was definitely cool."
Fast forward a few years, and he's catching passes all over Beaver Stadium yet again, but this time, there are just a few more people watching.
By the end of his freshman season he had 26 receptions to his name, making him one of the more reliable targets in Penn State's often up-and-down passing attack and one of the better tight ends in the nation.
If he had any plans to slowly ease into the college experience, that went to the wayside as he took the field against Ohio State, pulling down three passes and what appeared to be the game winning touchdown prior to Ohio State's late comeback efforts.
"My expectations were to come in and play right away," Freiermuth said. "I didn't really care whether it was special teams or a little bit of offense. It really didn't matter to me. I wanted to come in and make an impact. Then I played special teams and got a couple reps in blocking situations. I ended up becoming a starter. The whole season was unreal. I know I prepared myself and did the work to be the starter. I think it worked out pretty well for me."
Hard to argue it didn't.
Of course the challenges in 2019 and beyond will be different. Freiermuth is no longer a rising star catching teams by surprise. He will face added defensive pressure, not to mention the pressure that comes with being an anticipated asset for the offense. If his freshman season had been lukewarm fans, wouldn't have known any better. But now, he enters camp as a player with expectations.
And after a year enjoy being sequestered from the media, he'll have plenty of questions to answer along the way.
But there are worse things than being good at what you do.