After suffering five losses by five points or less last fall, Blackhawk High (Beaver Falls, Pa.) running back Cole Chiappialle knows a thing or two about perseverance. So when he attended run-on day at University Park Jan. 20, he knew after the presentation that it would be a waiting game to determine whether or not he'd be offered a spot in Penn State's rapidly growing run-on program.
Undeterred, the running back waited and waited for the call that came from Nittany Lion quarterbacks coach Charlie Fisher. It came Wednesday afternoon, when Fisher told him that a spot was his if he wanted it. And he most certainly did.
“Coach Fisher called me [Wednesday], and said 'You made it, now all you have to do is commit,' ” Chiappialle said. “I told him if I'm invited, I'm committing right now. I was pretty excited.”
The senior was a bright spot for the Cougars throughout a 3-7 season, scampering for nearly 1,500 yards and 22 touchdowns, while moving out of the backfield to catch 49 passes for 522 yards and another four touchdowns. And while his 38 tackles are nothing to sneeze at, Chiappialle will likely be used primarily on the offensive side of the football in Happy Valley.
“Ever since sixth grade, I've played running back, and that's where they are going to look at me. But I told them I'd play offense, defense or wherever they needed me,” Chiappialle said. “I feel I'm best out of the backfield because I can plain run, but I also can run good routes, too, and I feel like I have good hands.”
Though California (Pa.) and Notre Dame of Ohio were looking at Chiappialle at the Division II level -- along with start-up Alderson-Broaddus in West Virginia -- he, like all of the run-ons who have decided to dedicate their next four or five years to Penn State, couldn't pass up the offer to run-on at PSU over partial scholarship offers.
“I'm very honored just to get this opportunity. If they called, I wasn't going to turn it down,” he said. “Just the tradition at Penn State and what the coaches are doing with the program; it's something special, and I want to be a part of something special.”
Basketball and weight training will fill the days until the senior heads to University Park, though when that will be is still to be determined. Whether it's June or August, though, Chiappialle will be a Beaver Stadium for the Blue-White game in April and also plans on attending a spring practice once they kick-off. But regardless of when he officially arrives, he knows the time is short to prepare for the day he does.
“I've played baseball for most of my life, and last year we won the WPIAL championship in AAA,” Chiappialle said. “But I don't think I'm going to play this year, because I just want to focus on football, and getting in the weight room and hitting the weights, and getting on the field doing drills.”