By Joseph Pawlikowski

Special to The CS&T

Mark Arcidiacono grew up rooting for Penn State, dreaming he could play there. This fall, that dream will come true.

Arcidiacono, a senior offensive tackle from St. Joseph’s Prep and parishioner of St. Bede the Venerable in Holland, officially signed with Penn State Feb. 4, national college signing day. This July, he will be working out in Happy Valley, commencing his dream to wear the illustrious blue and white uniform.

After having an excellent season his junior year, Arcidiacono said offers from several spanision I schools were made. “It happened really fast after my junior year. It was really exciting,” he said.

Arcidiacono made several visits and was also recruited by West Virginia, one of the elite college football programs in the country. However, his decision became simple when Penn State made him an offer. “Nothing compared with Penn State,” he said. “I always had them on my mind during the recruiting process.”

In February 2008, Penn State had an offer ready for Arcidiacono, and in April he verbally committed to the Nittany Lions. He made it official in writing last month, and his dream came to fruition.

Penn State allows its recruits to watch games from the sidelines once they have verbally committed. Arcidiacono had the opportunity to watch three games during the 2008 season as the Nittany Lions went 11-2 and ended the regular season ranked sixth in the nation before losing to USC in the Rose Bowl.

He found the experience unbelievable. “I don’t care what anyone says, Penn State has the best fans in the country. You can’t find this anywhere else,” he said of Beaver Stadium, packed with approximately 110,000 screaming fans during each home game. “Running out of the tunnel was amazing seeing that crowd. They were so loud the entire game,” he added.

He is especially excited to get to Happy Valley in July for summer workouts, where he will start practicing with legendary coach Joe Paterno. “I wore Penn State colors growing up and always watched their games, and it is pretty obvious how Paterno is looked at. I can’t believe it is a reality that I will be playing for him.”

Penn State, over the past few years, has made some changes in its offensive philosophy, which now features a “spread HD.” It calls for receivers and running backs to stretch the field and requires unique athleticism from the offensive linemen.

Arcidiacono said he went over the playbook with the coaching staff and thinks he can pick it up quickly. “Their plays are very similar to the Prep’s in terms of blocking schemes,” he said.

The 6-foot-5-inch, 285-pound Arcidiacono loves to play physical and said he prefers run blocking for that reason. “I love contact …. A running back’s production is a product of the blocking up front,” he said.

He developed this physical style during his career at the Prep, and he credits his coaches for that: head coach Gil Brooks as well as Carton Rogers and Pat Spadaro, who were his linemen coaches.

As Arcidiacono prepares for life in Happy Valley in July, he said he is appreciating time with his family and friends. “I will be away from home for four years starting this summer, so I am making sure I spend as much time with my family as possible,” said the oldest of eight children. However, the grateful offensive tackle is training every day in the weight room, preparing to make the most of an incredible dream come true.

Joseph Pawlikowski can be reached at