Gilman All-Metro defensive tackle Ellison Jordan announced his commitment to Penn State this afternoon over Maryland and Virginia Tech.
"It's hard to put my finger on it, but there was just something special about the atmosphere at Penn State that made me feel that it was the place for me," said Jordan, a 6-foot-1, 277-pound four-star prospect.
Last Friday, Jordan said he had whittled his list of more than 25 college scholarship offers down to three. He had visited Penn State, Maryland and Virginia Tech several times each, so he felt prepared to make his final decision quickly although he said it was one of the hardest things he had ever done.
"I was asked how important is it for me to be able to come home (on occasion)," Jordan said, "but I told my family, I want to work on some things and mature as a man and I believe that I'll be OK going away to college. One thing about Penn State, it's not super far, but at the same time it's a decent drive. I'll be away, but they know I'll be taken care of and it's close enough that they don't have to drive too far."
Ranked the No. 10 overall player in Maryland's Class of 2016 and the No. 23 defensive tackle in the nation by the recruiting website Rivals.com, Jordan had 16 sacks, 12 tackles for a loss, four forced fumbles and four fumble recoveries as a defensive leader for the Greyhounds, who won a share of the Maryland Interscholastic Athletic Association A Conference championship.
Jordan said the toughest part of finalizing his decision was telling the coaches at Maryland and Virginia Tech that he would not be accepting their offers.
"It broke my heart. It really did," he said. "I like all the schools. They're all great. They all supported me, but somewhere in my heart, I had a gut feeling that Penn State was the right decision for me and my family."
Jordan also said he looks forward to playing a role in the resurgence of the Penn State program as it recovers from NCAA sanctions that followed the Jerry Sandusky child abuse scandal.
"I believe coach (James) Franklin is building Penn State back up," Jordan said, "and I want to be part of that. I want to contribute to the best of my ability. I know it's going to be hard when I first go in and meet with the coaches. They're going to be pushing and it's going to be a lot of competition. They have a lot of D tackle depth right now."
Jordan is well known for his nonstop motor and his ability to disrupt opposing offenses despite drawing multiple blockers.
Gilman coach Biff Poggi said Jordan has all the tools to succeed with the Nittany Lions.
"My feelings always were in the recruiting process that you would look at him and say he might be undersized but do you want to play against him? I don't think anybody wants to play against him. He could be incredibly disruptive and he's going to play in the Big Ten and I think teams are going to have to game-plan around him. He's such an outstanding player.
"He's explosive, he can pass rush and if you watch him on film, he never stops," added Poggi. "Talent is one thing and yes, he's incredibly talented, but you can't coach motor and this kid has football ability and the motor. I've never seen a kid play like this before. He's going to play early, because he's going to absolutely wear people out."
Poggi said that while Jordan might be considered undersized because he's not 6-3 or 6-4, at 277 pounds, he's got plenty of size.
In addition to playing high-level football, Jordan was looking for the best fit "academically, spiritually and socially" and he said he found that at Penn State too.
"I'm very happy about my decision to go to Penn State," Jordan said. "I am relieved. Now, I can focus on my Gilman team this fall and being the best Gilman team we can be. And I can focus on academics and taking the SAT."
At Penn State, Jordan will join former Greyhound Brian Gaia, an offensive lineman who hosted Jordan on his most recent visit.
Jordan is one of three local prospects The Baltimore Sun is following through the recruiting process in a series of occasional articles. Franklin's Steven Smothers and McDonogh's Eric Burrell have not made commitments.