Tight end Adam Breneman sealed his last days of high school at Cedar Cliff (Camp Hill, Pa.) with a few final exams before graduating early. Come Jan. 7, Breneman will officially be a Penn State Nittany Lion.
Breneman was selected to play in the 2013 Under Armour All-America Game on Jan. 4 but will miss the game as he finishes rehabbing a torn ACL.
Though he missed his entire senior football season, Breneman used the recovery process to gain perspective on staying positive, grounded and hungry.
That’s only partly at the root of Breneman's success. He took a moment to share what else has kept him going at an elite level.
Describe your first football experience.
Breneman: I was in fourth grade. The first time I stepped onto the field, I actually wanted to quit. At the time, it felt like a lot of work, and there were a lot of old coaches yelling. I didn’t like it. My mom encouraged me to at least get to the first game, and if I still wanted to quit then she would let me. I played the game, and I loved it. I’m happy I didn’t quite.
At what point did you realize you could play at the next level?
In eighth grade — I played for the ninth-grade football team because I was too heavy to play for my middle school team. My first game of the year, I played wide receiver and had five touchdowns. That’s when I realized that if I work hard I could be pretty good.
Once you transitioned to high school football, how did your approach to the game shift?
Whenever you’re changing levels, it’s a new start. You’re playing with bigger, better, faster and stronger athletes. And I realized once you get to the next level, it takes so much more work off the field and much more than God-given talent to be good. So the higher up you play, the more time you have to spend working on your game and putting in extra hours after practice.
What motivates you and keeps you focused?
The background on my phone is a picture of Penn stadium. That’s what I’m always working toward. My other background is a picture of the NFL Draft stage. Things like that give me something to look forward to.
I know that everything I do is making me better. When my friends are out partying, watching movies and hanging out, I’m watching film, lifting or running or doing something to make myself better. I’ve got this goal, and I’m trying to be the best football player I can be.
What do you tell yourself on your hardest days?
I just try to keep my mind on the bigger picture. I have a lot of support throughout my community — Penn State fans, people at school, my family, coaches and teammates. The last thing I’d want to do is to disappoint and let them down. My motivation is to make everyone proud and represent my town.
What advice would you tell other high school athletes?
Set the bar high. There are a lot of people along the way who are going to doubt you — I’ve seen it. Never let someone tell you that you can’t do something. Instead, thrive off of that and go prove them wrong.
And if you become a big-time recruit, don’t change who you are because of what people are saying about you. Stay true to yourself and to the people who were there when you were nothing.