By William Bowman
The Daily Item
UNIVERSITY PARK -- A lot of boys grow up in the Central Susquehanna Valley dreaming of one day running out the tunnel at Beaver Stadium.
Ryan Keiser lived that dream a year ago as a freshman at Penn State, but now he wants to take it a step further.
Keiser, a former All-State football player who helped Selinsgrove win the state title in 2009, hopes to see action this fall when the Nittany Lions hit the field beginning Sept. 3 against Indiana State.
Noticeably bigger since arriving on campus, Keiser used his red
shirt year to grow accustomed to college life, grow physically and learn what it takes to play Division I football.
A preferred walk-on, Keiser dressed for home games last fall but never saw game action, which is what he expected. This year, with four seasons of eligibility remaining, he enters the season listed third on the preseason depth chart at Hero -- Penn State's name for one of its safeties -- behind senior Drew Astorino and sophomore Stephen Obeng-Agyapong. While he knows breaking into an experienced secondary might be tough, Keiser feels like he will contribute on special teams.
"I'm not expecting anything big, but hopefully I can see the field a little bit. That would be great," Keiser said Tuesday. "I'm just going out every day, working hard.
"Hopefully I can contribute on special teams. If not, I will be out there cheering everybody on."
The hard work Keiser put in over the past year is obvious. Keiser was listed at a generous 195 pounds on the Selinsgrove roster as a senior, but this year he is listed at 206 on the Penn State roster, the heaviest of the three Heroes on the depth chart.
"I've gained about 20 pounds," he said. "It's eating consistently, lifting. Everybody up here is great. The guys work hard, come out here and compete. We all love the game."
Keiser is part of one of Penn State's most experienced units, which might limit the number of reps he could see this year. All four starters return from last year and others like Chaz Powell, Nick Sukay and Derrick Thomas all started at times last year.
With all that experience, Keiser spends a lot of practice time soaking up as much information as he can, especially from Astorino, who has been a regular since his freshman year.
"I learn a lot from those guys," he said. "Drew loves the program and gives it 100 percent every day."
As he prepares for his second season in Happy Valley, Keiser will have some major bragging rights. His roommate this fall will be linebacker Dakota Royer, who was a two-way star on the Manheim Central team Keiser's squad beat in Hershey for the PIAA title two Decembers ago.
"We are pretty good friends, but I rag on him now and then," Keiser said with a chuckle.
Even if he doesn't get on the field as much as he would like, Keiser is living his childhood dream. He is playing for Joe Paterno, one of the most legendary coaches in the history of the game, at a school rich with tradition and close enough to home where his family can get to see him play.
"It was crazy last year, loved every second of it," he said. "It's what you dream of growing up as a kid."
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