Dominic Rulli has never been to Beaver Stadium as a fan.
Although he’s loved Penn State since boyhood– even attending Penn State’s Big Ten Championship Game win over Wisconsin at Lucas Oil Stadium in 2016– the combination of living more than seven hours away in Burlington, Kentucky, and later five hours away in Watertown, Connecticut, and having football games Friday nights and Saturday mornings made it too difficult for Rulli to make the trip to Happy Valley and be one of the 107,000+ to pack Beaver Stadium.
Now, Rulli— a 6-foot-3 center weighing between 285 and 290 pounds— has decided to make State College his home.
And he plans to get quite familiar with Beaver Stadium.
This past Tuesday night, Rulli announced his commitment to walk-on at Penn State after previously being committed to West Virginia.
Rulli had been committed to West Virginia since Christmas Eve.
Then, a month and a day after his initial commitment, he heard from Penn State head coach James Franklin and offensive line coach Phil Trautwein, and that got the ball rolling.
He liked what West Virginia offered, but having grown up a Penn State fan and, as grade school kid, watching the program recover from scandal to return to national powerhouse status, he knew what his heart was telling him.
“I’ve always wanted Penn State,” Rulli said. “West Virginia was great. There wasn’t any way they treated me bad. It was a great time. I loved the coaches. Coach Ryan Nahlen, he did a great job. I just felt that at Penn State, I could see myself in the future player there. I felt I fit the system. I could see this bond being built between myself and coach Trautwein, and I just liked my scenario a little bit better at Penn State. That made my decision a little bit easier.
“It was a little close to signing day, which was a little stressful. But I think— I know I made the right choice.”
Not that Rulli needed a whole lot to sell him on Penn State, but Trautwein’s coaching concepts and coaching style appealed to him as well.
Rulli said he and Trautwein talked in Trautwein’s office for at least an hour.
“I like how he coaches and how he teaches his offensive linemen, and I see myself being able to excel in his program,” Rulli said. “That makes me feel like I fit in the program or his style. Because, you know, every coach has their own way of teaching and own technique. I like the way he teaches his.”
In a program full of four-star and five-star athletes, Rulli knows he’ll fly under the radar. It’s true that most walk-ons never go on to college football stardom, but Rulli is confident, and part of that confidence comes with getting to know Drake Jackson, a former all-SEC center at Kentucky. The two connected through a camp in Lexington that Rulli attended as a high school sophomore.
Jackson, thought to be undersized, became an all-SEC selection and spent time in the NFL this season as an undrafted free agent.
“He was known as an undersized center,” Rulli said. “He was all-SEC. He went to the NFL at 6-foot-2, 290, 300 pounds. I learned from him that it doesn’t matter what your size or what your status is. As long as you’re willing to go in and work, you can make a name for yourself. As a preferred walk on, I’m going to have to work.”
Work ethic isn’t something Rulli should have a problem with. With the Taft School known for its academic excellence, Rulli excels academically (GPA) and had Columbia as one of his top colleges.
So whether its in sports or studies, Rulli isn’t one to slack.
“All I’ve known is how to work, and I’m excited for what’s to come at Penn State,” he said. “And I’m ready to work.”