When Ben Knapp was seven years old he was playing catch with his dad.
As they tossed the ball around, they talked about a dream. A dream of Knapp one day playing tight end for Penn State.
Fast forward a decade and those dreams became reality on Monday as Knapp committed to be a preferred walk on for the Nittany Lions.
“I have dreamed of playing tight end at Penn State since I was a kid,” Knapp said. “To have the opportunity with probably the best coach I met throughout the process. I waited on it, but since I got that offer I have been thinking about this the whole time.
“Coming from a small town it was tough. As a preferred walk on or full scholarship I am excited to get to Penn State and work my butt off and do anything I can to contribute to the program.”
Working with a good group of receivers at tight end and with tight ends coach Tyler Bowen is something that Knapp is excited for.
“That’s the reason (the tight ends are good), the tight end coach is a great guy and he’s a great coach,” Knapp said. “The tight end success reflects on him. I can’t wait to be part of that room and I look forward to going out there.”
For Knapp, ever since his sophomore year he has known that Bowen would be a good coach for him.
“My first ever camp I went to was the Penn State camp as a sophomore going into my junior year, when I first met coach Bowen, he was the first coach I met,” Knapp said. “He is a special guy and coach for me. He is one of the biggest reasons I made the decision to go to Penn State.”
Ever since that day at seven, Knapp knew Penn State was perfect for him.
“Since I was a kid, me and my dad would talk when I was throwing the ball, when I was seven years old maybe, about maybe playing tight end at Penn State. I always thought it was more of a dream, that dream became reality the past couple months. Just to say I’m going to Penn State to play tight end is an amazing feeling.”
It is special for Knapp to go from Canton to Happy Valley.
“It means the world as a player who wants to break the mold,” Knapp said. “Just because we are small doesn’t mean we don’t have talent. Me playing at Penn State, I hope it carries on and these younger guys get a chance to prove what playmakers they are.”
Things will be tougher for Knapp in college than he has ever experienced before, but he is ready for the challenge.
“It’s time to figure out what I am made of,” Knapp said. “I have to work hard, but I’m up to the task. And if I am not, then I will work hard to be up to the task.”
Doing camps at Penn State in the past, Knapp has some idea what he’s getting into, but he also knows that it is going to be a huge transition.
“I’ve come in contact with some of the coaches and some of the facilities,” Knapp said. “To be honest, I will probably get my butt kicked the first couple weeks. But, I will work hard and keep doing what I can to get better one step at a time.”
Knapp knows that walking on the field in Penn State will be very different from playing in the NTL.
“Compared to the small town of Canton, they are probably going to blow my eardrums out,” Knapp said. “I love loud atmospheres. I can’t wait to be a part of that and take in the amazing fan base Canton has.”
While he is an all-state player on the field, Knapp knows that how he acts as a person is also a big part of why Penn State liked him.
“I have developed quite a bit as a player,” Knapp said. “Coach Bowen and the entire Penn State staff preached on character.
Luckily for me I fit that mold with character. I hope to prove they made the right choice taking a shot on me to become not only a great football player, but a great person and man after going through my career at Penn State University.”
There isn’t one thing in particular for Knapp to work on. He just wants to keep getting better.
“Everything,” Knapp said of things to work on. “Once I get there and to that level and see what they want to work on I will. I pride myself on being coachable. I will do everything to be the best player and person I can be.”
Knapp knows that there is a lot of work to be done, and that he may not get a chance to contribute right away. He’s willing to put in the work, wait his turn and do anything they ask him to do.
“I am not one to be selfish and feed me the ball,” Knapp said. “If my team is winning and I am contributing at the end of the day winning is what is important. If coach Bowen wants me to run a deep route, or block my butt off, I’ll do what it takes to get that W.
“Any opportunity I am presented I will take every opportunity. Whether they want me to block on a kick return or run down on a kick off. Whatever they think is best is what I’m going to be doing.”
Knapp doesn’t want to get ahead of himself, but he knows that if the chance comes to step on the field for the Nittany Lions, it will be an amazing moment.
“It’s a dream come true,” Knapp said. “I try not to think too far ahead, because next thing you know you are nerved up. When, and if, that moment comes that will probably be one of the greatest moments in my life.”
And, Knapp can’t wait to see how his hometown will react if he gets on the field in Happy Valley.
“That’s something I can’t wait for that day when and if it happens,” Knapp said. “I love this community. Despite the struggle of playing for a small school, I love every minute of it. Representing this town I take a lot of pride in.”
It still isn’t sinking in yet for Knapp that he is going to be a Nittany Lions football player.
“To be 100% honest no,” Knapp said of if it has sunk in. “Sometimes it takes a couple days to let things sink in. I will get there. I worked hard to do my best to do everything I can to make myself the best version of myself. I have to try and grasp the fact that my dream has come true and this is actually happening.”
Knapp hopes that seven year old kids in the future see him playing for the Nittany Lions and realize that those crazy dreams can come true.
“If there is one thing I want to be taken from this, your dreams can come true with hard work,” Knapp said. “There are a lot of bright spots in Canton, a lot of solid kids trying to get their shots.”