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‘I’ll Drive’: 12-Hour Trip to Penn State Worth it for Bear and Josh McWhorter

It was supposed to be simple. 

Josh McWhorter and his son, also named Josh but known to all as “Bear,” were going to fly from their home in Cartersville, Georgia, to Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, Friday, May 21. 

They initially had a 10 a.m. flight.

Josh Sr. was going to go to Pittsburgh for a business meeting before driving to State College to take his son to the “Rising Star” football camp at Penn State. 

Well, it didn’t quite happen that way. 

The flight that the McWhorters were supposed to board got delayed. Josh and Bear could have waited to get on a 6 p.m. flight, but wouldn’t have landed in Pittsburgh until late, perhaps after midnight, assuming there were no further delays. 

Josh didn’t want to risk it. 

So what was the new plan?

“Hey, get your stuff,” the father told his son. “I’ll drive.”

And so they went 12 hours to Penn State in a GMC Sierra Truck, and the “Happy Valley” experience would go on as scheduled.

“I had made a commitment to him,” Josh said. “As long as he commits to getting better each and every day.”

BECOMING BEAR

Josh Sr.’s brothers grew up Alabama football fans, and that’s how his son became “Bear,” a homage to the immortal coach Bryant. 

His wife, Vanessa, wouldn’t let the name “Bear” appear on her son’s birth certificate.

No problem. Remember, “Bear” wasn’t Paul William Bryant’s real name, either, but he was known to all by his nickname, and the younger McWhorter has been “Bear” for his entire 14-year existence.

NOT YOUR AVERAGE 14-YEAR-OLD

The fact that Bear is only 14 surprises many who see him. 

He’s 6-foot-4, 275 pounds—the size of a grown man. 

It’s not a bad trait for an offensive lineman to have. 

“I’m 14,” Bear said. “But every time I tell someone that, they never believe me.”

Still in middle school, Bear already has his goal set to play Division I football and feels he already has some of the tools. 

“I think I have good feet as a lineman my size,” Bear said. “I work on them pretty much daily. I’m still working on my hands right now, but when I go into pads, I’m really aggressive. I think that’s just what makes me stand out from other players.”

Josh, who played left guard at Furman University and is now the offensive coordinator at Cass High School, where Bear will start playing this fall, feels that his son’s work on his quickness is paying off. 

“He’s starting to develop surprisingly quick feet for his size,” Josh said.

Bear’s father pointed out that his son started at left tackle on the varsity in the team’s 2022 spring scrimmage. 

“He did fairly well there,” Josh said. “I think the big thing is just continuing to learn. He’s got the size down that I think he’s going to be able to play college football.”

EARLY BRUSHES WITH FAME

Bear’s tweet that explained his journey to Happy Valley got 25 retweets and 854 likes on Twitter. 

Not bad for an eighth-grader.

It wasn’t the first time Bear had received attention. 

Last summer, Bear’s picture, consisting of him in a “mean mug,” arms crossed pose that’s commonplace for offensive linemen, appeared on a billboard near Fayetteville, Arkansas.

Josh works in the billboard business and wanted to use his knowledge to help his players get noticed in recruiting.  

The caption read: “COACH PITTMAN, I WANT TO BE A HOG,” a message for Arkansas head coach Sam Pittman.

The plan to get noticed worked.

Last weekend, Bear didn’t go as far as to say, “COACH FRANKLIN, I WANT TO BE A NITTANY LION,”  but he did talk to Penn State head coach James Franklin and worked drills with offensive line coach Phil Trautwein.

Bear says he liked what he saw in Happy Valley.

“It’s really awesome,” he said. “They’re one of the college blue bloods in football, and they’ve always been top 10, top 25, year in and year out, and coach Franklin has done a really good job with them.”

Unsurprisingly, his biggest takeaway was the size of Beaver Stadium. 

“It was huge,” Bear said. 

A LONG ROAD AHEAD

The sight of an empty 107,000-seat stadium was impressive to Bear.

But it won’t have anything on playing in a sold-out 107,000-seat stadium. 

Bear has a long way to go; he understands it will take time. 

With his whole high school football career ahead of him, Bear has a lot of time to figure out if he wants to be a Hog, a Lion, a Tiger, a Bulldog or anything else. 

Right now, he’s thinking about his first DI offer and the emotions he’ll feel if and when it comes.

“I can’t even imagine it,” Bear said. “The feeling has gotta be surreal. I wouldn’t be surprised if I broke down in tears. I don’t know. It’s gotta be crazy.”

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