A year ago, if anyone would have told Miles Dieffenbach that he would have been suiting up for Penn State, he would not have believed them.
"I would have said absolutely not - you're out of your mind," he said.
To borrow the old slogan, Pitt was it for Dieffenbach, an offensive guard from Fox Chapel High School. He was raised a Panther fan. His father, George, has coached the Pitt women's tennis team for 27 years and his older sister is on the tennis squad. Additionally, his head coach at Fox Chapel, Bryan Deal, was an assistant of former Pitt coach Walt Harris for seven years.
In short, Dieffenbach was about as close as they come to a lock.
"I thought I was Pitt all the way, and all of those people were right. I'd say I was more than just neutral," he said. "I would say it was probably like 75-25 between Pitt and everywhere else."
One late-May visit to Penn State changed all of that.
"I always told myself when I had that feeling, when I visited that school, I wouldn't wait any longer. I was going to make my decision right then and there when I knew that was the place I wanted to be," said Dieffenbach. "I had different views of Penn State my whole life, and when I went up there and visited, it was the most unbelievable place I'd ever been.
"Coach (Tom) Bradley showed me around the campus, everything was beautiful. He took me inside the stadium and showed me how nice the facilities were and how great all of the coaches were. I just got this family vibe there, with the players and the coaches. Everyone takes care of everyone else and when I got that feeling I knew that it was the place I wanted to play football at."
Before he left campus, Dieffenbach told Bradley and coach Joe Paterno that he wanted to be a Nittany Lion. That prompted the Hall of Fame head coach to jump up and roar like a lion. Paterno informed Dieffenbach that he would have to learn how to do the same, instead of growling like a Panther.
Though many expected Dieffenbach to eventually take another look at the Panthers, he never wavered on his decision after the visit.
"I actually talked to him on the ride home, and there was nothing about Penn State not to like," said Deal. "It's a great city, it's a great college atmosphere, it's a great football atmosphere. It really fit his character really well. It was up to him to make the decision. His parents let him make his decision as did I. We all just wanted the best for Miles and his future."
George Dieffenbach was particularly supportive, despite his ties to the University of Pittsburgh.
"My dad was really positive, and wherever I wanted to go was going to be the right decision," he said. "He would have been completely supportive of any decision that I would have made, whether it was Pitt, Penn State, Florida State - anywhere. It was really easy to make a decision like that with that support."
The reception from the Pitt fans was not as warm.
"I got a whole lot of backlash," he recalls. "Some of the Pitt fans were saying that they were going to beat us up if they saw us on the street and we shouldn't show our faces around the Pitt campus again. People would send me hate mail on Facebook and stuff like that. You can't pay attention to that. I've been around it long enough that it was kind of funny, and a little ridiculous."
The 6-foot-4, 285-pound prospect will play center when he arrives at Happy Valley this summer. While playing tackle for Fox Chapel as senior, he was named first team all-state and was a Pittsburgh Post-Gazette Fabulous 22 selection.
Rivals.com rated Dieffenbach as the No. 4 center nationally, the No. 8 player in Pennsylvania and the No. 220 overall player nationally.
Deal said that Dieffenbach will be an asset on and off the field at Penn State.
"He has a great work ethic, is a great student and is reliable," said Deal. "I think that's the biggest aspect that he brings. Not only does he have the physical attributes, the size and strength, but he's an overall good kid, a great program kid. He'll do anything the program asks of him, he'll do it right and he'll never be an embarrassment to anyone. He's a high-character kid.
"He grew up as a son of a tennis coach, and that's kind of a rare combination, especially for a big lineman. He's got good feet, and I think he's gotten better every single year he's played the sport. That's what I'm most excited about for him, is his future."
Miles Dieffenbach Offensive line Pittsburgh, Pa. Fox Chapel HS 6-foot-4, 285 pounds Recruited by: Tom Bradley
- Was a first team all-state and a Pittsburgh Post-Gazette Fabulous 22 selection as a senior.
- Selected for and played in the ESPN Under Armour All-American Bowl in January.
- Rated by Rivals.com as the No. 4 center and No. 220 overall player nationally.
- Was the offensive line MVP at the State College Nike Camp in 2009.
- Son of Pittsburgh women's tennis coach George Dieffenbach.
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